McFeely: Flakoll would make city commission race deeper, wilder
The Fargo City Commission election might be getting more interesting. And it was already going to be plenty interesting.
Former longtime north Fargo state senator Tim Flakoll is gathering signatures to get his name on the June ballot, making the field for the race even deeper.
There are two spots up for grabs, seats currently held by Dave Piepkorn and Tony Gehrig. Former three-term city commissioner Mike Williams, who couldn't run for reelection in 2016 because of term limits, has already filed to run. The only other candidates to file are Gehrig and activist Lenny Tweeden.
There will be more. Fargo School Board member and former city commissioner Linda Boyd will announce her candidacy soon. It's expected Piepkorn will seek re-election, although he's indicated he might run for mayor or even North Dakota's U.S. House or U.S. Senate seats that are being contested this fall. Piepkorn says he will make an announcement at the end of this month.
Something to keep in mind about Piepkorn: He recently helped reignite the debate over a performing arts center in downtown Fargo, an issue that was dead for about three years. He's often tried to brand himself as a fiscal conservative—using anti-refugee and anti-immigrant rhetoric as a tool to show he's looking out for taxpayer dollars—but openly pushing a $50 million public arts building is a way to expand his appeal. It might be an indication he's running for commission.
Another name making the rounds in political circles is Discovery Middle School teacher Tammy Linn, who ran unsuccessfully for commission in 2016. A native North Dakotan, she worked for former Republican Arizona Gov. Jane Dee Hull and served on the Prescott city council before moving back to Fargo several years ago. Linn was recently appointed to the Fargo Airport Authority by Mayor Tim Mahoney because she supports his view that Hector International Airport needs a parking ramp, something airport officials say they can't afford.
Linn is uncommitted to running for city commission, saying she's "waiting to see how things play out."
Flakoll appears to have made a decision to run, although he declined to comment when reached by phone. He's been gathering signatures and visiting with people about issues.
Fargo allows city commission candidates two ways of getting on the ballot: They can pay a $100 filing fee or submit a petition with 300 signatures of qualified voters. Flakoll choosing the latter might be a savvy political move because it allows him to door-knock and engage potential voters without actually announcing a campaign.
Flakoll is a longtime public servant. He was in the state senate as a Republican from 1998 until losing a reelection bid in 2016 and has been been a member of numerous boards. He's the provost of the Tri-College University.
His entrance into the race, along with Williams and Boyd, adds more experience to the field of challengers. Combine that with Gehrig and, potentially, Piepkorn and voters will have a deep field from which to choose.
One familiar name will not be on the ballot. Joe Burgum, son of Gov. Doug Burgum who narrowly missed being elected to the commission in 2016, will not run. He said he wants to help overhaul Fargo's liquor license laws and help design economically viable streets. Burgum is also serving on the special assessment commission.
Readers can reach Forum columnist Mike McFeely at (701) 241-5379