North Dakota House speaker loses GOP endorsement in West Fargo district
Jim Jonas and Austen Schauer won the District 13 Republican nominations over longtime state Rep. Kim Koppelman.
WEST FARGO — North Dakota District 13 Republicans have chosen to endorse a newcomer to the state House of Representatives over the current speaker of the House.
At the Tuesday, April 5, legislative endorsing convention, members voted to endorse two members for the two open representative seats in District 13. Their options were longtime incumbent, judiciary committee chair and Speaker of the House Kim Koppelman, first-term incumbent Austen Schauer and current West Fargo School Board President Jim Jonas.
The Republican members chose to endorse Schauer and Jonas to seek election to the two open seats on the June 14 ballot. Candidates who do not receive their party's nomination can still place their names on the June 14 ballot by circulating a petition of voters' signatures and filing it by Monday, April 11.
District 13 GOP Chairman Levi Bachmeier said Koppelman told members at the convention Tuesday night that if he did not receive the party's endorsement, he would not seek reelection in June.
In an email to the West Fargo Pioneer on Wednesday, Koppelman confirmed he would not seek election in the primary.
"This is not about me," Koppelman said. "I have always believed that one should run for office in order to do something, not in order to be something. Having served for many years and accomplished much, I had seriously considered retiring from the Legislature this year and it only was the strong encouragement from constituents and legislative colleagues to run again which prompted me to throw my hat in the ring once more. I even considered withdrawing, as a candidate, before last night’s meeting, but did not feel that would have been fair to the many who gave of their time and money to attend."
District 13 is composed of West Fargo, the city's core area that lies north of Interstate 94.
Koppelman has served in the North Dakota House of Representatives since 1994. He founded and is president/CEO of a marketing firm and consulting business. In 2008, he served as the chair of the Council of State Governments, a national organization made up of all three branches of government in all 50 states.
Koppelman also served a four-year term on the Riverside City Council. Riverside eventually merged with West Fargo to become a growing city of about 36,000. He is a longtime West Fargo resident, who remains in the city with his wife, Torey. His son, Ben Koppelman, has served as a District 16 Representative since 2012.
"Torey and I are at peace with the decision to retire and are grateful, beyond words, for the love and support of so many in West Fargo and throughout North Dakota," Kim Koppelman said. "Representing our community in the Legislature has truly been a labor of love, and we now look forward to completing my term as Speaker of the House and to the next chapter, whatever the Good Lord may have in store."
Jonas, a former West Fargo High School teacher and coach, announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination in March. He also plans to seek reelection to the West Fargo School Board.
Jonas said he was encouraged by many community members to join the legislative race. He believes he can continue to put forth the needed time and dedication to both the school board and state Legislature.
Schauer was first elected to the state House in 2018.
He received 82 of the Republican member votes, Jonas received 67 votes and Koppelman totaled 48 votes.
The committee also selected longtime state Sen. Judy Lee, who is seeking reelection to the state Senate unopposed.
Bachmeier said he had not heard of any other candidates seeking office in District 13. More than 100 people attended the convention, "which was a very strong showing for the district," he said.
Now that Jonas and Schauer have been endorsed by the District 13 Republicans, the organization will support the two candidates by offering financial resources and campaign infrastructure.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the District 13 Democats had not endorsed a candidate for the June 14 ballot, meaning Schauer and Jonas could run unopposed.