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Kyle Potter, Published March 18 2014

Sinner officially launches US House campaign against Cramer

CASSELTON, N.D. – With his parents, the former governor and first lady of North Dakota, looking on, state Sen. George B. Sinner officially launched his campaign Tuesday to challenge U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer for the state’s lone seat in the House of Representatives.

Sinner, a Fargo banker and first-term state Senate Democrat, emphasized his background in agriculture and business as he announced his campaign from his family’s agribusiness, Sinner Brothers & Bresnahan, near Casselton.

“I cherish today my work with many of these farmers and business people across the state,” he said. “I’ve helped farmers in all aspects of their business.”

Sinner’s decision was months in the making. He had been publicly considering getting in the race for months, and had previously said he planned to make an announcement around the New Year.

Asked about the delay, Sinner would only say that he “needed some things to work out.”

“Why do we have to start last year on these things?” he asked of elections after a separate campaign event in Bismarck. “The public hates these things, and so do all of us. So, let’s just shorten it up a little bit and maybe we won’t need quite so much money, too.”

His entrance into the race kicks off an eight-month sprint to the November election, and Cramer has a head start. The first-term House Republican had about $293,000 on hand for his campaign at the end of 2013, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Cramer won his seat in 2012 by a 55-41 percent margin.

Both candidates will seek their parties’ endorsement at statewide conventions. The Republican State Convention is April 4-6 in Minot. The Democratic-NPL State Convention is March 28-30 in Fargo.

Libertarian Party candidate Jack Seaman is also running for the seat.

Setting an agenda

In his announcement speech, Sinner keyed in on conflict between the state’s oil and agriculture industries, exacerbated by what he called an “overburdened infrastructure system” that has led to accidents and manufacturing delays. He also highlighted a labor shortage and mounting college student debt as prime issues in North Dakota.

“Congress has forgotten that the people’s work comes first,” Sinner said. “That’s what I will do and work for in Congress.”

Politically, he compared himself to Minnesota’s Rep. Collin Peterson – one of the few remaining so-called Blue Dogs in Congress, a group of moderate Democrats.

“I’m not a left-wing liberal, and I’m not a right-wing ideologue. I’m somewhere in the middle,” he said.

Others weigh in

Sinner is senior vice president at American Federal Bank in Fargo and the son of former Gov. George “Bud” Sinner, who held the office from 1985 through 1992.

The former governor said he thinks his son is “a better candidate” than Cramer.

“He knows what government is about,” the elder Sinner said. “It’s about taking care of the needs of the people.”

In an interview, Cramer said he welcomes Sinner’s entrance into the race, and understands what a difficult decision it must have been for the Fargo Democrat.

And now that both lawmakers have a year of voting under their belts, Cramer said they will be able to provide clear information to voters about where they stand as they head to the polls.

“It should be a nice, clean contrast for voters to size up,” he said.


Forum Communications reporter Mike Nowatzki contributed to this report

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kyle Potter at (701) 241-5502