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Published January 08 2011

Sen. Conrad to begin airing ad for 2012

Even though he’s not officially seeking re-election yet, North Dakota Democratic incumbent Sen. Kent Conrad plans to begin airing his first campaign ad of the 2012 Senate race next week.

The ad will defend Conrad’s record against out-of-state interests that are pouring money into North Dakota’s radio stations 22 months before the election.

Liberal and conservative groups have shelled out at least $90,000 this week to launch their radio campaigns for and against Conrad, The Washington Post reported Friday.

But despite dollars being spent, there aren’t any declared candidates for the 2012 Senate race.

Election Day 2012 is still 668 days away. As of Friday, Conrad had not committed to running for another term.

His office deferred to the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party for comment.

“Senator Conrad is a fighter,” party director Joe Aronson said. “So he’s gotta defend against these outside interests.”

The conservative American Future Fund spent $60,000 to air an ad over a two-week span in North Dakota, according to The Washington Post.

The ad, which began airing on Tuesday, criticizes Conrad’s support for the “wasteful stimulus, massive Wall Street bailouts and the budget-busting health care bill that Americans didn’t want.”

A liberal group sought to defend Conrad on Friday with its own ad. Commonsense Ten spent $30,000 on its North Dakota radio ad, which praises Conrad as a “deficit hawk.”

Conrad has been a U.S. senator since 1986 and stands as the only Democrat left in the state’s congressional delegation – a position some analysts say would make him “potentially vulnerable” in 2012.

Several state Republicans have been mentioned as possible challengers, but none have come forward.

Politico reported that Conrad’s ad next week signals “he’s not taking any chances” for 2012.

The publication called it “the firmest indication to date that he’s inclined to seek a fifth term.”

North Dakota Democrats said Conrad will likely jump in the race.

“I fully expect that Senator Conrad will run for re-election,” Aronson said. “I haven’t heard anything to the contrary.”

Former Rep. Earl Pomeroy, one of Conrad’s closest friends, agrees.

“My own thought is that Kent Conrad takes so personally these issues that are just facing us today,” like permanent flood protection in the state and the national debt, Pomeroy told The Forum this week.

“Quite frankly, I don’t think he could ever walk away with the amount of challenge in each of those areas unresolved,” Pomeroy said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541