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Dale Wetzel, Associated Press, Published November 18 2010

Taylor chosen as leader for North Dakota Senate Democrats

BISMARCK – Towner Sen. Ryan Taylor, mentioned by some North Dakota Democrats as a 2012 candidate for governor, was elected Wednesday as the state Senate’s new minority leader.

Taylor, 40, succeeds Lansford Sen. David O’Connell, who has held the job for eight years. O’Connell, 70, did not run for re-election, saying he wanted to devote more time to family matters.

This month’s elections thinned Democratic ranks in the Capitol, leaving Republicans with two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate. Democrats lost nine Senate seats and 11 House seats; Republicans now have 35 Senate seats to Democrats’ 12, and 69 House seats to Democrats’ 25.

“We’ve gone through a grieving process since Election Day,” Taylor said during a Wednesday breakfast meeting of Senate Democrats at the party’s Bismarck headquarters. “That doesn’t mean that our voice is diminished. It just means that we maybe need to speak a little more loudly.”

Taylor ranches near Towner, a community about 60 miles east of Minot, and writes a newspaper column. He was first elected to the Senate in 2002, and bucked a Republican tide in winning his third term this month with 60 percent of the vote.

Democratic activists are promoting Taylor as a candidate for governor in 2012, and he said Wednesday he has not ruled out the possibility of running.

Senate Democrats also picked Sen. Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, as Taylor’s assistant, and re-elected Sen. John Warner, D-Ryder, as caucus chairman. Neither man was opposed; Schneider succeeds Sen. Carolyn Nelson, D-Fargo, who did not run for another term.

Schneider’s father, Fargo attorney Mark Schneider, is the state Democratic Party chairman. His late uncle, John Schneider, served as Democratic minority leader in the North Dakota House.

“We took a hit in terms of numbers,” Schneider said. “But as I look around this room, I am very impressed with the talent that we do have.”

The 31-year-old Schneider said some of his first political memories were from walking downtown Fargo with two cousins to carry brochures for Nelson, who served for two sessions in the North Dakota House before she was elected to the Senate in 1994.

“I think we probably knocked over a lot of lawn ornaments accidentally, and lost her all kinds of votes,” Schneider joked.

Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate elected floor leaders this week who will serve during the 2011 Legislature, which begins Jan. 4.

Republicans re-elected Fargo Rep. Al Carlson and Bismarck Sen. Bob Stenehjem as the majority leaders in those chambers. House Democrats picked Rep. Jerome Kelsh, D-Fullerton, as their minority leader to succeed Rep. Merle Boucher, D-Rolette. Boucher ran unsuccessfully for North Dakota agriculture commissioner and did not seek another House term.

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