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Published January 13 2011

Kalk forms committee to look at Senate bid

North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk announced late Wednesday that he’s formed an exploratory committee to gauge a possible bid for the U.S. Senate.

Kalk notified his supporters through e-mail that he’d filed the appropriate paperwork with the Federal Election Commission this week.

He isn’t declaring as an official candidate, but the exploratory committee is a firm indication of his interest in vying for the Republican nomination for the 2012 U.S. Senate race.

Kalk’s name has been mentioned in political circles as a potential challenger to Democratic incumbent Kent Conrad, and since the November election, Kalk has made no secret of his desire to seek the position.

Kalk said he started calling his base supporters after Jan. 1 and was surprised by the amount of support he received, saying he already started to receive campaign contributions.

Federal election laws require potential candidates to form official exploratory committees once they raise more than $5,000 in donations.

“We needed to form the Kalk for Senate Exploratory Committee so we could keep gauging support, keep raising money,” Kalk told The Forum late Wednesday. “I am not a candidate, but we have filed the paperwork.”

In the short-term, Kalk said his focus will remain serving on the Public Service Commission, which is busy with cases while the North Dakota Legislature is in session.

But, Kalk said the important issues facing the nation are one motivator to consider a bid for the U.S. Senate.

“The issues will drive the decision,” Kalk told The Forum. “What I need to decide is where will be the best place for me to serve.”

Kalk served in the Marine Corps for 20 years and taught at North Dakota State University, before he was elected to the Public Service Commission in 2008.

“Our nation faces unprecedented challenges as we move into the second decade of the new century,” Kalk said in his e-mail to supporters. “We are all concerned about the direction America is going. I believe we have to change that direction and get our beloved country back on track.”

Conrad has not yet committed to a re-election bid, but plans to begin releasing ads to defend himself against outside interest groups. Other names mentioned as potential Republican challengers include Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

Tony Clark, a public service commissioner and former chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party, said earlier this week he wouldn’t be surprised if Kalk advanced himself in the race.

“It wouldn’t be a shocker to any of us – let’s put it that way.” Clark said.

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