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Emily Welker, Published February 07 2014

Fargo legislator facing DUI won't run for re-election

FARGO – A longtime state representative here has decided not to pursue re-election, citing in part a pending drunken-driving charge against him.

“But it was not the deciding factor,” said Scot Kelsh, a five-term Democrat.

Kelsh said he received a great deal of public support from both Democrats and Republicans in the wake of his Nov. 18 arrest on Class B misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence.

“You can be forgiven one error in judgment,” he said.

The time commitment required for service in the Legislature has required him to spend a great deal of time away from home and his work as a firefighter in Fargo, including taking significant vacation time to serve in Bismarck, he said.

“Obviously, I’m a loyal Democrat,” he said, “but it’s time for me to do something for myself.”

Kelsh was first elected in 1996, representing District 11 – which mostly covers portions of Fargo between Main Avenue and Interstate 94 from Interstate 29 to the Red River.

He said alliances with legislators on both sides of the aisle as having helped launch initiatives in property tax relief, wind energy, water projects, a Bank of North Dakota college savings program and wildlife habitats, among others.

Kelsh is continuing to fight the drunken-driving charge against him in Cass County District Court.

He filed a motion Tuesday asking the court to throw out the case against him based on lack of probable cause. The motion claims the state trooper who arrested him never saw Kelsh driving improperly before he was pulled over.

Instead, the motion says, the Highway Patrol officer stopped him based on a phone call made by someone who had not seen Kelsh driving but who based their assumption that Kelsh needed to be pulled over on an earlier situation.

That phone call, the motion claims, also may have been based on privileged information, rather than something the caller had a right to know about.

There is a hearing in the case set for March 3.

The Kelsh family has served in the Legislature since the 1920s. Scot’s 73-year-old father, Rep. Jerry Kelsh, is a Democrat from Fullerton who represents southeastern North Dakota’s District 26.

Scot Kelsh said he had not yet discussed with his father whether the elder Kelsh will run again. For his part, he said, he hasn’t ruled out another run for a different office sometime in the future.

First though, he plans to “continue daily life – [and] take a vacation,” he said, with a chuckle.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541