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Roers Jones far outpaces rivals in fundraising for Fargo mayoral race

Shannon Roers Jones says the donations show the enthusiasm for her campaign.

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Rep. Shannon Roers Jones, R-Fargo, presents a bill to the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 16, 2021.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service
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FARGO — Shannon Roers Jones dwarfs the other candidates in fundraising in the race for Fargo mayor.

Roers Jones, who's up against five other mayoral candidates, has raised almost $121,000, according to a campaign finance disclosure statement that was due from all candidates by last Friday at the City Auditor's Office as the election looms in about a month.

The next two closest fundraisers in the mayoral race were Hukun Dabar with about $32,000 and incumbent Mayor Tim Mahoney, who is seeking his third term and has raised about $29,500.

Funds raised by the other three candidates are $14,473 for City Commissioner Arlette Preston, as well as Michael Borgie at $850 and Sherry Fercho at $339.

Most candidates in the races for mayor and two City Commission seats up for election on Tuesday, June 14, are almost all investing their own money, with some in the commission races fully funding their campaigns.

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However, Roers Jones had the most contributions of $200 or more, which are required to be reported. She has 33 big contributors so far, including four $10,000 donations.

Roers, a Fargo lawyer who's a representative in the North Dakota House, also contributed $55,100 of her own money.

"We appreciate the strong support from donors and volunteers," she wrote in a statement to The Forum. "Our strong fundraising is just one example of the tremendous enthusiasm behind our campaign to bring fresh leadership to Fargo."

Her $10,000 donors were Ron Bergan of Fargo, Bob Challey of Walnut Creek, California, Keith Peltier of West Fargo and her father, Jim Roers.

Roers Jones, a known Republican in what are called nonpartisan races for mayor and City Commission, also had a $500 gift across the aisle from Rep. Corey Mock, a Grand Forks Democrat.

Dabar had a majority of his big donors from a campaign fundraiser held in the Twin Cities, he said.

The donors there "were excited about the possibility of having him elected as the first Somali-American," said his campaign manager, Julian Dahlquist.

The next campaign funding disclosure statement isn't due until the end of the year when expenditures also have to be listed.

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Among known expenditures in the mayoral race are Roers Jones' TV ads and Mahoney and Dabar's radio ads.

Mahoney said he's concerned about the races getting too expensive as it could keep candidates from running. He thinks an election should be more "about character and the record of what they have done for the community."

"I don't think we need to get too carried away," he said about the cost of campaigns in the local races.

Roers Jones was asked in an email to respond to Mahoney's comment, but had not provided an answer as of publication time.

Mahoney said most of his campaign donations were from friends and "people I know." His largest individual contribution was $2,500 from his neighbors at his lake cabin, Dave and Julie Sherbrooke. He also put in $1,400 of his own money.

The incumbent had a $5,000 donation from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, which represents construction workers, heavy equipment operators and mechanics. "I find business for them," he said about the donation.

Jason Ehlert, president of the North Dakota Building Trades Unions, added that the reason for the donation was Mahoney's support for working people's issues such as living wages and workplace safety.

Preston said she was relying mostly on organizing and her "ground game," rather than contributions. "Money doesn't always mean everything," she said.

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Preston's filing showed her largest donations were $1,700 from a longtime friend, Sindy Keller of Fargo, and $1,000 from John Paulsen of Fargo.

Preston raised almost as much from small donors as she did from her larger donors.

Borgie and Fercho listed no donations of $200 or more, but instead had smaller contributions.

City Commission, other races

In the race for the two City Commission seats, the three leaders in campaign funding out of the 15 running are Denise Kolpack at $12,860, Will Thompson at $12,153 and incumbent Dave Piepkorn at $9,375.

Not far behind are Matuor Alier at $8,672, with $7,500 of his own money; and Ahmed Shiil at $8,487, with almost $6,000 in smaller donations.

Al Carlson listed $6,300 in contributions, including $5,000 of his own funds, and Anna Johnson reported $4,194, mostly small contributions although she had $1,000 from the Teamsters Local 120 as she is a truck driver.

Jennifer Benson listed $3,175 in donations, and Jodi Plecity had $1,500 in contributions, including $1,000 of her own funds. Tom Magin listed $400 under small contributions.

Two candidates reported no donations, Branden Krieger and Ves Marinov. Candidate Victoria Johnson told The Forum she was not taking any donations.

Krieger said he thought campaign donations only led to "corruption" in government, and Johnson said she didn't want any contributions as she didn't like the connection to any decisions she might make on the commission.

Two candidates failed to file reports, including Philip Deery and Lenny Tweeten.

Kolpack said her donations have been "bipartisan," which she said reflects how she stands on issues.

Most of her larger donations were from longtime friends. A few donations came from people on both sides of the political spectrum who she got to know when she worked in Bismarck, including $250 from Rep. Pam Anderson, D-Fargo, and $500 from Republican friend Cheri Harms of Bismarck.

Kolpack also said after the campaign donation report was due that she received a $2,500 donation from the area Homebuilders Association.

Her biggest donation was from her father, George Hanson of Moorhead, who gave $5,000. She became emotional when talking about the contribution as her mother died a year ago this week and they both admired her devotion to community service and her desire to run for office some day.

Thompson also received a large chunk of his donations from his father, former state legislator Vern Thompson, for $5,700. "It's great to have my family (be) so supportive," he said.

Dabar donated $1,000 to Thompson's campaign, $2,500 came from a friend, Kristina Jones, and $1,163 in leftover campaign funds from Thompson's run for a legislative seat in 2020.

Piepkorn is self-funding most of his campaign, reporting he spent $9,735 so far on advertising, with only $999 in small contributions. He also told The Forum he doesn't like to ask for any contributions so he's not beholden to any big contributor.

The five people running for three seats on the Fargo Park Board have also filed campaign contribution reports.

The five candidates are Joe Deutsch, Jim Frueh, Vicki Dawson, Jacqueline Dotzenrod and Aaron Hill.

According to campaign finance records, Dotzenrod, Deutsch and Frueh received no donations, though Frueh noted on his report that he is "self-funding" his campaign.

Deutsch is seeking his fifth term on the board after first being elected in 2006.

Dawson, also an incumbent, reported receiving no donations greater than $200, but she reported a total of $475 in donations of $200 or less.

Hill reported a total of $900 of donations of more than $200 and $475 of donations of $200 or less.

Hill's report included a $500 donation from himself and $200 donations from Mitch Parker and Joe Burgum.

Park board members serve four-year terms and are elected at large. Incumbent Stacey Griggs, who has served one term on the board, did not file for reelection.

Fifteen people are running for five seats on the Fargo School Board in the June local election. Under state law, school board candidates are not required to file campaign contribution reports.

Reporter Dave Olson contributed to this report.

An almost 50-year veteran of the newspaper business, Amundson has worked for The Forum and Forum News Service for 15 years. He started as a sport reporter in Minnesota. He is currently the city and night reporter for The Forum. bamundson@forumcomm.com 701-451-5665
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