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North Dakota Democratic-NPL endorses statewide candidates amid recruiting struggles

The party that has labored to field candidates in several major races made endorsements for U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, attorney general and Public Service Commission on Saturday.

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The North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party endorsed a handful of candidates for statewide office on Saturday, March 26, 2022, including (from left) Katrina Christiansen for U.S. Senate, Mark Haugen for U.S. House, Fintan Dooley for agriculture commissioner and Trygve Hammer for Public Service Commission.
Kyle Martin / The Forum
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MINOT — A handful of contenders for public office picked up endorsements this weekend at the North Dakota Democratic-NPL's state convention in Minot, but holes remain in the party's slate of statewide candidates.

The party that has struggled to field candidates in several major races made endorsements for U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, attorney general and Public Service Commission on Saturday, March 26.

Due to a lack of candidates, the party deferred endorsements for secretary of state and tax commissioner. Party Chairman Patrick Hart said his team will look to find candidates for the offices before the April 11 filing deadline.

In the party's contested Senate race, University of Jamestown engineering professor Katrina Christiansen overwhelmingly won over delegates to earn the endorsement.

Bismarck local historian Andrew Alexis Varvel unsuccessfully sought the party endorsement and told Forum News Service he will drop out of the race. Fargo antiques dealer Michael Steele , who is also running for Senate, was not present at the convention and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Statewide candidates can move forward to the June primary election without a party endorsement if they turn in 300 signed petitions to the Secretary of State's Office.

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Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Katrina Christiansen speaks during the Democratic-NPL Party's state convention in Minot, North Dakota, on March 26, 2022.
Kyle Martin / The Forum

Christiansen said incumbent Republican Sen. John Hoeven "will hear my footsteps" on the campaign trail. She proposed capping prescription drug prices, providing resources to schools and bumping up funding for mental and physical health treatment.

The party came into the day with no candidates for the U.S. House, but Mark Haugen, a student advisor at the University of Mary in Bismarck, earned the delegates' faith on Saturday. Roland Riemers, a frequent political candidate with libertarian-leaning views, unsuccessfully pursued the party's endorsement.

After taking the stage to Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line," Haugen said Republican incumbent Rep. Kelly Armstrong has put party over state in opposing a Democratic infrastructure package. Haugen said he's building his platform on supporting farmers and ranchers, honoring American Indian tribal treaties, taking care of military veterans and providing high-quality health care to North Dakotans.

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Mark Haugen, a student advisor at the University of Mary in Bismarck, announces his candidacy for U.S. House of Representatives at the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party's state convention in Minot on Saturday, March 26, 2022.
Kyle Martin / The Forum

Haugen previously ran for state treasurer in 2020 but lost to Republican Thomas Beadle by a wide margin.

Armstrong, a lawyer who won reelection by a landslide margin in 2020, is seeking a third term in Congress.

A Democratic candidate for attorney general also entered the fold. The party endorsed Grand Forks lawyer Timothy Lamb for attorney general despite the candidate not being present at the convention. Lamb accepted the nomination in a recorded 30-second speech but did not divulge any pieces of his platform.

Republican Drew Wrigley, a former lieutenant governor and federal prosecutor, is considered the front-runner in the race for attorney general. Gov. Doug Burgum appointed him to the position earlier this year after longtime officeholder Wayne Stenehjem died.

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The party also threw its backing behind Trygve Hammer for Public Service Commission. The Velva science teacher and Marine Corps veteran encouraged disillusioned Republicans to take a chance on a Democratic candidate with a bold name.

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North Dakota Public Service Commission candidate Trygve Hammer appeals to delegates at the Democratic-NPL Party's state convention in Minot on Saturday, March 26, 2022.
Kyle Martin / The Forum

Hammer, who is running against recent Republican appointee Sheri Haugen-Hoffart, didn't touch on his political platform during a speech to delegates but had a simple message for the state: "Vote for a Democrat. His name is Trygve Hammer, and he'll be fine."

On Friday, delegates endorsed Bismarck environmental lawyer Fintan Dooley for agriculture commissioner and Twin Buttes organizer Melanie Moniz for the other Republican-held slot up for election on the Public Service Commission.

The party holds no statewide offices and just 15% of the seats in the state Legislature.

The dominant state Republican Party will hold its state convention next weekend in Bismarck, where delegates will choose between Hoeven and challenger Rick Becker, a Bismarck state representative, in the U.S. Senate race.

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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