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Patrick Springer, Published March 14 2012

North Dakota governor candidate Ryan Taylor picks Ellen Chaffee as running mate

FARGO – Ellen Chaffee has a long track record as a higher education administrator and is a familiar name in North Dakota. But she’s a newcomer to politics.

So she was the first to admit Wednesday that many would be surprised by the announcement that Ryan Taylor, the Democratic candidate for governor, chose her as his running mate.

Both Chaffee and Taylor focused many of their remarks on what they characterized as out-of-control oil and gas development that is altering the landscape and fraying the social fabric of western North Dakota.

“Instead of growing North Dakota, we are losing it,” Chaffee said. “Oil development is a runaway train driven by out-of-state interests.”

Chaffee, 67, was president of Valley City State University for 15 years, simultaneously serving as president of Mayville State University for nine of those years. She resigned in 2008.

Earlier, she served as vice chancellor of the North Dakota University System, and for five years was director of organizational studies at the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.

Chaffee now lives in Bis-marck and is married to David Schwalbe, a native of Killdeer, located in North Dakota’s booming Oil Patch.

“Many families, including my own, have lost fundamental rights because the state of North Dakota gave them to Big Oil,” Chaffee said.

“People are angry, and rightly so,” she said. “Their trusting nature has been stretched to the breaking point.”

Eastern North Dakota also is affected by the oil boom because people who are displaced by skyrocketing rents often seek assistance from homeless shelters and social service providers in the east, Chaffee said.

“Lack of state leadership and planning have done this to them,” she said.

Taylor, a rancher from Towner and the Senate minority leader in the North Dakota Legislature, said Chaffee emerged as his clear choice to join him on the ticket as lieutenant governor candidate.

Noting that the governor serves on both the state Industrial Commission, which oversees petroleum regulation, and land board, Taylor said the governor can demonstrate leadership to provide for more orderly oil and gas development.

“We haven’t heard the questions asked at the Industrial Commission level,” Taylor said.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s campaign spokesman issued a statement in response.

“The governor was honored today to announce endorsements from 22 mayors of North Dakota communities east to west,” said Amanda Godfread, noting they included mayors of Oil Patch towns such as Williston, Watford City, Dickinson, Stanley, Beulah and Minot.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522

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