Former ND ag commissioner exploring run for governor

BISMARCK - Former North Dakota agriculture commissioner Sarah Vogel said Tuesday she is in the early stages of exploring a run for governor next year, becoming the first Democrat to publicly acknowledge a possible gubernatorial bid.
Sarah Vogel

BISMARCK – Former North Dakota agriculture commissioner Sarah Vogel said Tuesday she is in the early stages of exploring a run for governor next year, becoming the first Democrat to publicly acknowledge a possible gubernatorial bid.

“I am in the thinking about it stage,” Vogel said in a phone interview.

Vogel served two terms as state agriculture commissioner from 1989 to 1997. Prior to that, she spent about five years in private practice and two years as an assistant attorney general.

She opted not to seek a third term as agriculture commissioner and instead ran for the North Dakota Supreme Court in 1996, losing to Mary Muehlen Maring. She has worked in private practice since then, though her work as a solo practitioner now is intentionally “very limited,” she said.

“I have been asked to run for one office or another every election cycle for the last 20 years. And I always say ‘no, no.’ But this time I’m saying I’ll look at it, because I think there’s a need for different leadership. There are a lot of issues,” she said.

Vogel said the handling of the state’s oil boom by Republicans -- who hold every statewide office, a two-thirds majority in the Legislature and two of the state’s three congressional seats -- led her to reconsider running for governor.

“Environmental issues and then the pace of it, the chaos of it, the unnecessary waste,” she said. “And now we’re facing a bust and companies going bankrupt, and there should have been more of a plan.”

The 69-year-old Vogel said she has no timetable for announcing whether she will run. The Democratic-NPL Party will hold its nominating convention March 31-April 2 in Bismarck.

Democratic-NPL Executive Director Robert Haider said the party does not have a comment on Vogel’s potential candidacy.

Vogel grew up in Garrison, Mandan and Fargo and received her undergraduate degree from the University of North Dakota. She earned her law degree from New York University and moved back to North Dakota in 1981.

Speaking from Minneapolis, where she was attending a meeting of an advisory board to the Federal Reserve’s Center for Indian Country Development, Vogel said she hopes more Democrats will compete for the nomination.

Bob Valeu, the party’s immediate past chairman, called it “very good news” to hear that Vogel is considering running and said she “would make an outstanding governor.”

“She’d be very viable” as a candidate, he said. “She has the credentials. She has the experience.”

So far, one Republican has declared for the seat being vacated by Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who is not seeking a second full term. State Rep. Rick Becker of Bismarck announced his candidacy last month.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who has formed a campaign advisory committee and is already accepting campaign contributions, said last week that he will make his announcement before Thanksgiving. Also mulling a run are Sen. Tom Campbell, R-Grafton, State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt and Fargo businessman Doug Burgum, who hasn’t ruled out a run as an independent.