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Published April 10 2012

Field grows in state superintendent race

BISMARCK – The competition for North Dakota’s top K-12 post increased Tuesday when a fourth candidate entered the race.

Retired school administrator Keith Jacobson of New Salem turned in paperwork to the secretary of state’s office to have his name on the primary ballot for the superintendent of public instruction race.

Jacobson vied for the job in 2004, but lost to current Superintendent Wayne Sanstead. He is a former New Salem principal, Mandaree superintendent and Williston-area principal.

Jacobson said he’s worked his entire adult life in education and feels he knows the issues and concerns.

“I think I’m more qualified than many of the candidates running,” he said. “That’s what motivated me.”

Jacobson said he thinks the state needs to “look hard” at how school districts are funded. He said his work in Williston gave him experience with challenges schools in the Oil Patch face.

Jacobson, who received Republican support during his last run for the office, said he didn’t make up his mind to enter the race until after last week’s state Republican convention.

“I wasn’t going to run. The more I thought about it, I thought, ‘No. I’m going to commit to this,’ ” he said. “I just felt I had a lot to offer, and I wanted to do it.”

Jacobson is seeking to become the fourth state superintendent candidate on the primary ballot.

Former Bismarck state senator Tracy Potter and former Grand Forks teacher Max Laird, now of Bismarck, also turned in paperwork Tuesday for the superintendent race.

The secretary of state’s office will review the candidates’ forms to ensure they met the criteria for placing their names on the ballot.

Potter is executive director of the Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation and served as a Bismarck state senator from 2007-2011. He ran for the U.S. Senate against John Hoeven in 2010.

Potter did not seek support from the Democratic Party for the superintendent race.

He said it’s a harder road to winning an election without party support, but said it was the appropriate one for the nonpartisan office.

Laird, a former president of the North Dakota Education Association, received support from the Democratic-NPL Party. Mandan School Board President Kirsten Baesler received Republican support for the race and has also turned in her paperwork.

In June, voters will narrow the field of candidates to two for the November election. Sanstead is not seeking another term.

The last day to file petitions or nominations with the secretary of state’s office is Friday.


Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.


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