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Embattled Ray Holmberg set to leave North Dakota Legislature; Grand Forks lawyer to fill seat

Sen. Ray Holmberg, the longest-tenured member of the upper chamber, resigned Wednesday, June 1 — a month and a half after a Forum investigation found he exchanged text messages with a jailed man accused of child pornography crimes.

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North Dakota Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, speaks on the Senate floor in November 2021.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service
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BISMARCK — After more than four decades in the North Dakota Senate, Ray Holmberg is stepping down six months before the end of his term. A Grand Forks lawyer and businessman will take his spot.

Holmberg, the longest-tenured member of the upper chamber, resigned Wednesday, June 1 — a month and a half after a Forum investigation found he exchanged text messages with a jailed man accused of child pornography crimes.

Local Republicans appointed Jonathan Sickler to replace Holmberg until the end of the lawmaker’s term in November, said District 17 GOP Chairman Josh Anderson on Tuesday, May 31. Sickler, a Republican, is the only candidate running for the seat.

Holmberg first announced in March he would not run for reelection due to health issues including weakened cognitive abilities. Following the Forum report, Holmberg stepped down from his leading role on Legislative Management, a powerful committee that manages the Legislature’s work between sessions.

A 2020 Twitter thread making sexual assault allegations against Holmberg resurfaced a week after the Forum report’s publication. In the thread, a former North Dakota resident alleged he was sexually assaulted by Holmberg in 2010 after Holmberg invited the man to stay at his condominium in Florida.

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Days later, Holmberg announced he would resign at the beginning of June, stating that news stories about him had created unnecessary distractions for his colleagues.

Holmberg has not been charged with any crime related to either incident. When contacted by Forum News Service on Tuesday, Holmberg declined to comment on his resignation or the allegations leveled against him.

He also declined to say whether authorities were investigating him. A police report, unearthed by The Forum in May , showed that federal agents searched Holmberg's Grand Forks home in November 2021 and seized several items, including computer discs.

Sickler works as the chief legal officer for AE2S, an engineering consulting firm, and previously practiced law in Washington, D.C.

The attorney told Forum News Service he wants to focus on policies that support families, diversify the economy and enhance education. If elected, Sickler said he hopes to help address the workforce shortages that have hamstrung businesses across the state.

After growing up on a farm near Dickinson, Sickler earned an undergraduate degree from the University of North Dakota, where he also served as a member of the State Board of Higher Education. He later earned a law degree from Harvard University. Sickler and his wife are raising three children.

As a new member, Sickler likely won't have many lawmaking duties during the current period between biennial legislative sessions. Senate leaders have already redistributed Holmberg's top-level committee assignments among other long-tenured legislators.

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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