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Mike Nowatzki, Forum News Service, Published January 18 2014

ND Dems: Candidates should be named soon; Sinner still considering run

BISMARCK – North Dakota Democrats say they plan to start announcing candidates for office around the end of this month, potentially answering the question of who from the party will challenge U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer in November.

Among the names at the forefront of potential U.S. House candidates is state Sen. George B. Sinner, D-Fargo.

Sinner, a senior vice president with American Federal Bank in Fargo and the son of former North Dakota governor George “Bud” Sinner, told Forum News Service last week that he is “kind of” considering a run against Cramer and will likely announce a decision before Feb. 1.

“I’m kind of mixed on the whole thing,” he said. “I love what I’m doing here in North Dakota right now, although I feel that Mr. Cramer has not represented the people of North Dakota very well, so I feel that he’s somewhat vulnerable. And I think that somebody has to step up and I think take the lead for the party.”

Former state representative Jasper Schneider, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009 as North Dakota’s state director of USDA Rural Development, also has been mentioned as a potential candidate for Congress or statewide office, but he said Friday he’s not running for office this year.

“I had a lot of different folks along the way approach me about it, but after evaluating all things, I really feel like I can be most effective in my current role,” he said.

Democratic-NPL Party Executive Director Chad Oban said he knows of others besides Sinner mulling a run for Congress, but none have gone public.

Libertarian Party candidate Jack Seaman of Fargo is Cramer’s only declared challenger so far.

North Dakota Republican Party Executive Director Jason Flohrs said getting Cramer elected to a second two-year term is one of the party’s top priorities, along with keeping the six statewide offices up for election in GOP hands and protecting the party’s supermajorities in the House and Senate.

Legislative races will take place in the state’s 24 odd-numbered districts. Republicans currently hold 20 of the 24 Senate seats up for grabs and 39 of the 48 House seats that will be on the ballot.

On the statewide ballot, the four Republican incumbents – Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, Secretary of State Al Jaeger, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk – are expected to seek re-election.

Two political appointees to statewide office, Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger and Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak, also are seeking election – Rauschenberger to a full four-year term and Fedorchak to the remaining two years of Cramer’s term.

Flohrs said their strong year-end fundraising reports – Fedorchak raised nearly $80,000, Rauschenberg more than $134,000 in just 47 days – doesn’t leave a lot of opportunity for Democrats to steal one of the statewide seats.

“They just don’t have a deep enough bench to field a solid candidate in all of these races,” he said.

But Oban said Democrats already have a candidate for tax commissioner who will announce soon, as well as two or three contenders looking at secretary of state and the Public Service Commission.

“We’re confident we’re going to have really strong candidates up and down the statewide ticket and the legislative ticket,” he said.

Two well-known Democrats sometimes mentioned as potential challengers – current Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, and former Senate minority leader Ryan Taylor of Towner – told The Bismarck Tribune last month they won’t run for statewide office this year.

Oban said he expects legislative candidates to start announcing in the next few weeks and to have specifics on statewide candidates “very soon.”

“Once a domino falls here, I think a lot of other dominoes will fall into place,” he said.

Oban said he’s not worried about Democrats not having any declared candidates yet.

“I think if you ask the average voters, ‘Are campaigns long enough?’ they would say they’re plenty long, even if a candidate gets in nine months before Election Day,” he said.

The Democratic-NPL Party will hold its convention March 28-30 in Fargo. The GOP will follow with its convention April 4-6 in Minot.

Candidates must file by 4 p.m. April 7 to get on the June 10 primary ballot.


Reach Nowatzki at (701) 255-5607 or by email at mnowatzki@forumcomm.com.