Satrom could take on Hoeven
A former Democratic state senator said he is exploring a race for North Dakota governor in 2004. Joe Satrom of Bismarck is a native of the Clifford-Galesburg area and still owns family farm land in the area. He is director of the land protection ...
A former Democratic state senator said he is exploring a race for North Dakota governor in 2004.
Joe Satrom of Bismarck is a native of the Clifford-Galesburg area and still owns family farm land in the area. He is director of the land protection program for Ducks Unlimited and co-owns Satrom Travel & Tour Inc. with his wife, Katherine.
If nominated, Satrom would oppose Gov. John Hoeven, who in recent polls had a 75 percent approval rating and is expected to run for re-election.
Satrom, 57, said Wednesday he is looking into the mechanics of a race. He has not formed a committee or registered with the secretary of state, he said.
"It's premature. I'm not collecting money or anything. I'm developing relationships," he said.
State law says a candidate must register a committee within five days of accepting money for a possible campaign.
"In terms of campaigning, at this point, I really want to hear about people's concerns and ideas," Satrom said.
He said North Dakota needs to be more culturally and economically vibrant.
"I think we need to look at ourselves as a place that embraces change as opportunity rather than dismiss it as something that is unacceptable or something we can't deal with," he said.
Satrom's exploration of a race includes reacquainting himself with party members who could support him for the nomination next spring. He has been out of politics for more than 10 years and has not been attending district or state conventions, he said.
Satrom was elected to the Senate from Bismarck in 1982, a year in which Democrats achieved a party revival following devastating losses in the 1980 election. He eventually became chairman of the Senate Finance and Tax Committee when the Democrats held the majority in the Senate.
He retired from politics in 1992, after he and Katherine adopted a daughter.
"I've been quite inactive other than supporting candidates individually," he said.
Satrom was state tourism director under Gov. Art Link from 1969-76, then managed a consortium of construction contractors that worked on energy-related projects. He managed the Nature Conservancy's Dakotas office for eight years before joining Ducks Unlimited four years ago.
Republicans said Democrats will face an unbeatable incumbent.
"Any candidate who runs against Governor Hoeven is going to have a very tough race," said Jason Stverak, executive director for the state GOP.
Satrom is a "well-respected businessman who brings many things to the table," Stverak, said, "(but) when it comes down to it, people are going to decide John Hoeven has done a very good job as governor and want him to stay governor."
Other Democrats who have been talked of as possible candidates for governor next year include Heidi Heitkamp, the former attorney general whom Hoeven defeated in 2000; her brother, state Sen. Joel Heitkamp, D-Hankinson; and Dennis Hill of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives.
Joel Heitkamp said he needs to talk to his family, other Democrats and the directors of the water district he manages before he can say if he will seek the nomination.
"This race is still a long ways away," he said, adding it's important for prospective candidates to make their intentions known sooner rather than later. He expects to make a decision well before the end of this year, he said.
Heitkamp called Satrom a decent man whose experience would be "a recipe for success."
Dennis Hill was out of his office Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.
Heidi Heitkamp laughed at the prospect of running again.
"I've said all along it's not likely," she said.
She praised Satrom as a "terrific state senator" with a good background in agriculture and someone who cares a lot about North Dakota.
"He'd be a great candidate," Heitkamp said.
The best thing for the Democratic-NPL, she said, would be to have lots of people interested in the nomination.
The party executive director, Vern Thompson, agreed.
"We hope to have three candidates in the near future that will make some kind of announcement," he said, including one person he is meeting with today who has not yet made their interest public.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830