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Mike Nowatzki, Forum News Service, Published March 03 2014

ND solicitor general misses hearing on lawsuit over 2012 governor's race

BISMARCK – North Dakota’s solicitor general missed a hearing Monday on a petition filed by a third-party candidate who wants the results of the 2012 gubernatorial race thrown out on a technicality.

Paul Sorum, who ran in 2012 as an independent candidate, is asking the judge to order that the election results be recertified after removing the Republican and Democratic candidates, which would make him the winner with 1.69 percent of the vote.

Sorum contends that the party endorsement forms filled out by the GOP and Democratic candidates didn’t comply with state law because they omitted their running mates.

A hearing on his request was held at 8:30 a.m. Monday at the Morton County Courthouse in Mandan. Judge Donald Jorgensen said he would issue a ruling at a later date.

Solicitor General Douglas Bahr, who is representing Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley and Secretary of State Al Jaeger in the matter, missed the hearing.

In a letter sent to the judge and provided to Forum News Service by the attorney general’s office, Bahr explained that he relied on an “inaccurate” notice prepared by Sorum that identified the starting time as 9 a.m. Monday. Bahr’s letter also said the state doesn’t believe a hearing is necessary in the matter.

Sorum said he didn’t misinform the attorney general’s office about the hearing time. He said the court administrator originally gave him the time of 9 a.m. and that he discovered about a week ago that the hearing had been moved up to 8:30 a.m.

“If Mr. Bahr was confused about the time, clearly he’s not looking at the court schedule for his active cases, which seems ridiculous as an excuse,” Sorum said, adding, “Frankly, they want to take the focus away from the substance of the case.”

Sorum contends that the law the candidates failed to follow is the same law cited by Jaeger and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, both Republicans, in the removal of the Libertarian Party’s candidate for governor, Roland Riemers, from the November 2012 ballot.

Bahr argues that the Riemers situation was “materially different,” and that the omission on the endorsement form wasn’t an essential element of the election and “did not obstruct the free and intelligent casting of the vote.”

He’s asking that Sorum’s petition for a writ of mandamus be dismissed.