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Longtime North Dakota lawmaker dies after battle with ALS

First elected to the House of Representatives in 1992, Rep. George Keiser chaired the chamber's influential Industry, Business and Labor Committee every legislative session from 2003 until 2019, when he disclosed he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a muscle-weakening nervous system disease commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease.

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Rep. George Keiser, R-Bismarck.
Contributed / North Dakota Legislature
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BISMARCK — Rep. George Keiser, one of the longest-serving members of the North Dakota Legislature, died Wednesday, Dec. 22, after a fight with ALS. He was 75.

First elected to the House of Representatives in 1992, the Bismarck Republican chaired the chamber's influential Industry, Business and Labor Committee every session from 2003 until 2019, when he disclosed he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a muscle-weakening nervous system disease commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Keiser announced only last week that he would not run for reelection in 2022, saying, "Words alone cannot express what a privilege it has been to serve our state." The U.S. Army veteran owned Bismarck-based Quality Printing Service.

Rep. Emily O'Brien, a Grand Forks Republican who confirmed Keiser's death to Forum News Service, called Keiser a truly original person and a compassionate public servant whose institutional knowledge will be irreplaceable. His enthusiasm for the job and razor-sharp mind shone through even during the recent November special session, O'Brien said.

One of the state's youngest lawmakers, O'Brien said Keiser took her under his wing during her first session in 2017 and eventually began referring to her as his "rookie of the year." Keiser was never afraid to speak his mind during debates, but he made the serious work of government fun and enjoyable, O'Brien said.

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"I don’t have as many years of friendship as some other people, but feels like I’ve known him my whole life," O'Brien said.

Gov. Doug Burgum said Keiser was a supporter of the business community and a leader in health care reform during his nearly three decades in the Legislature.

U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer said Keiser improved life for many North Dakotans through his legislating. Keiser also introduced Cramer to his future wife, Kris, while working on a campaign in 1986.

"I literally owe George for 35 years of happiness," Cramer said.

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven said Keiser "worked to build up his community and secure a more prosperous future for North Dakotans."

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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