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North Dakota political parties in drastically different spots as state conventions approach

The North Dakota Republican Party has a full slate of candidates running for statewide office in the 2022 election, while the state's Democratic-NPL Party has no declared candidates in a handful of major races.

GOP convention 2018
Attendees at the North Dakota Republican Party's 2018 state convention hold up signs supporting Kelly Armstrong, who won election to the U.S. House later that year.
Eric Hylden / Forum News Service
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BISMARCK — State conventions held by North Dakota Republicans and Democrats over the next few weeks will mark a ramping up of the 2022 election cycle, but the two parties enter the political season in very different positions.

The North Dakota GOP, which will put on its state convention in Bismarck on April 1 and 2, holds every statewide and congressional office in addition to 85% of the seats in the state Legislature. The party has a full slate of candidates for the eight statewide political races on the 2022 ballot, including one contested race for U.S. Senate between incumbent John Hoeven and state Rep. Rick Becker.

The Democratic-NPL Party, which will meet in Minot on March 24-27, has no declared candidates in seven major races due to appear on ballots across the state in November, including U.S. House, attorney general, secretary of state, tax commissioner, agriculture commissioner and two seats on the Public Service Commission. Three Democratic candidates are running for the same U.S. Senate seat.

Democratic-NPL spokeswoman Laura Dronen said the party's top priority is recruiting candidates to run for office, adding that some could come forward during or after the convention.

Former U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who lost to Republican challenger Kevin Cramer in 2018, was the last North Dakota Democrat to hold statewide office.

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State GOP Chairman Perrie Schafer said he expects Republican delegates at the convention to endorse the party's unopposed candidates, including Kelly Armstrong for U.S. House, Drew Wrigley for attorney general, Brian Kroshus for tax commissioner, Doug Goehring for agriculture commissioner, Michael Howe for secretary of state and Julie Fedorchak and Sheri Haugen-Hoffart for Public Service Commission.

All are incumbents except Howe, a Casselton state representative, though Wrigley, Kroshus and Haugen-Hoffart were recently appointed by Republican Gov. Doug Burgum.

Delegates will also make an endorsement in the race between Hoeven and Becker, who are both seeking the party's blessing.

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. However, candidates often drop out if they fail to win their party's endorsement.

A Hoeven campaign spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the senator would go on to the primary if he loses the endorsement.

Becker said his decision whether to continue on to the primary if he fails to win the endorsement would depend on a few factors, including whether Hoeven states prior to the convention that he would honor the delegates’ choice. 

Democratic delegates will have a choice between Katrina Christiansen, Andrew Alexis Varvel and Michael Steele in the Senate race, but Dronen said she's not sure if all will seek the party's endorsement.

Up to 500 delegates will attend the Democratic convention, Dronen said. Schafer estimated 1,500-1,800 delegates will be at the GOP convention.

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Both parties will approve aspects of their publicly stated platform at their respective conventions. Schafer declined to disclose the lineup of speakers at their events, though he noted that Burgum will address attendees. Dronen said several national Democratic figures, including U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, of California, and second gentleman Doug Emhoff, will be sending in video messages for the convention.

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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