BISMARCK – With their state convention just a week away, North Dakota Republican Party officials remain mum on whether any of the three GOP presidential hopefuls might address the party faithful in Fargo, but Executive Director Roz Leighton said Thursday it will be "well worth the wait."
Leighton said the party has "two great keynotes" lined up to speak on the Saturday and Sunday of the convention, which is April 1-3 at the 5,000-seat Scheels Arena.
"Those names will be released this week and the next," she said. "There are a lot of moving parts in Republican politics right now that are contributing to delays, but I can assure our supporters that it will be well worth the wait."
Speculation has been swirling that one or more presidential contenders could choose to attend the convention because of the bigger role that North Dakota's 28 unbound delegates could play in deciding the GOP nominee if the national convention in July is contested.
Donald Trump leads the delegate count with 739, followed by Arizona Sen. Ted Cruz with 465 and Ohio Gov. John Kasich with 143. At least 1,237 delegates are needed to capture the nomination.
North Dakota also was recently thrust into the presidential spotlight when Republican National Committeeman Curly Haugland of Bismarck sent a letter to fellow RNC members and appeared on talk shows claiming that all delegates to the national convention are unbound. Haugland told Forum News Service he thought it "might put an end to the notion that these stupid primaries are going to choose our nominee."
Leighton said she could neither confirm nor deny that the state party is working to bring presidential candidates to the state convention.
"No comment," she said.
On the other side of the aisle, North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party officials announced March 1 that U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York will deliver their convention's keynote address at 10:30 a.m. April 2 at the Bismarck Event Center. Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, who is running for Congress, will speak at the convention's banquet at 7 p.m. April 2.