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Published March 15 2012

Democrat Kelsh pledges to be 'vigorous watchdog' if elected North Dakota auditor

FARGO - In announcing his bid for North Dakota auditor this morning, Fargo Democrat Scot Kelsh pledged to be a "vigorous watchdog" and bring a new direction to the state office.

With North Dakota's vibrant economy and influx of new residents, particularly in the western Oil Patch, Kelsh said the state's top offices - including auditor - are in dire need of new leadership.

"We're at a point in North Dakota where we have a one-party rule, and I don't think that's healthy," Kelsh said. "I think we need to bring accountability and balance back to state government."

All of North Dakota's state offices are held by Republicans, except for the Superintendent of Public Instruction - a non-partisan elected office which is held by Democrat Wayne Sanstead.

Kelsh, like other Democratic hopefuls this year, are branding 2012 as a "rebuilding year" for North Dakota's minority party.

Kelsh said Republicans - including veteran incumbent Auditor Bob Peterson - have "gotten a little two comfortable in North Dakota."

Peterson has held the seat since 1997 and he plans to seek re-election this year on the Republican ticket.

Kelsh is a longtime Fargo legislator, who's represented District 11 since 1996. He works as a full-time firefighter for the Fargo Police Department and was formally a real estate appraiser.

If elected, Kelsh said he would like to see a more proactive approach to performance audits in the state. Among other tasks, the office has administrative oversight over all state offices, including the state Board of Higher Education.

Specifically, Kelsh cited Workforce Safety & Insurance, or WSI, as one area that needs more oversight because of "questionable actions" there.