BISMARCK — Kirsten Baesler and Brandt Dick are on the path to the general election in a bid for superintendent of public instruction in North Dakota, if percentages from incomplete primary election results hold.
With all 422 precincts reporting unofficial results as of 1 a.m. Wednesday, June 10, Baesler, who was first elected to the state's top K-12 education job in 2012, led the race with 54% of the vote. Dick, the Underwood Public Schools superintendent, was in second with 26%.
Charles Tuttle, a semi-retired businessman from Minot who describes himself as a full-blown President Donald Trump supporter, had about 20% of the votes that were in.
The top two vote-getters will move on to the general election on Nov. 3. There still are some ballots that could come in if they were postmarked Monday, June 8, or earlier.
Unless a significant amount of votes swing Tuttle's way, he will be knocked out of contention.
The state superintendent race is one of two on the ballot that is nonpartisan, meaning candidates do not have to announce for which party they are running.
Republicans in the past had endorsed Baesler for the seat, but that didn’t happen this year after the GOP canceled its state convention due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus. The party endorsed candidates who faced no opposition in the primary.
The GOP plans to endorse a candidate after canvassing officials verify Tuesday’s results, which is expected to happen before June 26.
No Democrats have announced that they are running for the office.
Baesler has received widespread support from North Dakotan voters in the past. In the 2016 general election, she defeated Fort Totten high school teacher Joe Chiang with three-fourths of the vote. She also upended former Democratic state Sen. Tracy Potter in 2012, when she garnered 55% of the vote.
Baesler hasn’t been without controversy. In March, the 51-year-old pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in Burleigh County. She was arrested Feb. 26 after a state trooper said he saw her swerve several times in Bismarck along Interstate 94.
The superintendent has promoted her achievements as the head of the state Department of Public Instruction, as well as her experience in various teaching and administrative roles. She has guided the state through a coronavirus pandemic, including with moves to help with at-home learning while schools closed.
Baesler said she was grateful for the renewed trust from voters.
"I'm looking forward to earning the support of voters again in November," she said.
Dick has not faced criminal charges. He boasts a 25-year career in education, including as a math teacher, principal, school superintendent and athletic director.
The pandemic has limited the ability to campaign, Dick said, adding it will be tough to go up against an incumbent.
“We got some work to do in the next five months,” he said, adding he is looking forward to getting out to meet people and discuss his platform.