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Vogel bows out of North Dakota governor's race

BISMARCK -- Sarah Vogel has announced that she will not seek the Democratic-NPL endorsement for governor, leaving the field wide open to Republicans vying to hold the seat.

Vogel, a former agriculture commissioner who had formed an exploratory committee and attended fundraisers around North Dakota, said she was better able to advance her causes as a lawyer and through civic engagement.

“After careful consideration, research and meeting with everyday North Dakotans across the state, I have decided not to run for governor,” she said in a statement released Thursday night. “I believe I am in a better position to serve the people of North Dakota from the private sector -- as an attorney, a member of many statewide, regional and national boards, and as an advocate for once again making North Dakota a safe and healthy place to live and raise a family.”

Vogel, who was twice-elected agriculture commissioner and served from 1989 to 1996, practices law in Bismarck. She thanked her supporters and said it was humbling to receive encouragement to run.

Vogel was the only Democrat who publicly expressed interest in running for governor, and leaves them without a candidate as the campaign is heating up.

In a phone interview late Thursday with Forum News Service, Vogel said her decision not to run had "been bubbling for a while" as she thought about the realities of running a modern campaign.

“I haven’t been endorsed. That’s the purpose of an exploratory committee. You test the waters," she said. "I learned a lot about how modern campaigns are run, the expectations, the demands of money, the kind of schedule, and some of that was a learning experience for me and then I realized that I am in fact not a good fit for the demands of a modern campaign.”

Vogel said she informed exploratory committee members and party officials about her decision Thursday.

“I’d say they’re all sad and they all understand," she said. 

Vogel said she wasn't aware of any other Democrats waiting to step into the race.

“I kind of caught everybody by surprise," she said. “I don’t think they have anybody yet, but I’m going to work – if I can help anybody else, I’m going to do it.”

Vogel said she didn't know how much money she'd raised but whatever hasn't been spent will be returned to contributors, adding, "I've been pretty frugal."

“It was going OK, but to raise as much money as you need -- and I’m not taking money from oil companies, and no SuperPAC is going to be giving me money, and I’m not a billionaire," she said.

The 69-year-old said she's in good health and the physical demands of a campaign weren't a factor in her decision. In fact, she said she needs to complete two qualifying triathlons this summer so she can compete in the National Senior Games next year. She said she also wants to write a book about the 1980s farm depression.

Republicans have a three-way race for the nomination, with Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Fargo entrepreneur and downtown developer Doug Burgum, and Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, vying.

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