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Democrats endorse Schneider for US House race

Former state Sen. Mac Schneider accepts the endorsement for U.S. House at the Democratic convention March 17. Eric Hylden / Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS -- Mere days after entering the race, Mac Schneider was endorsed by North Dakota Democrats as their candidate in an open U.S. House contest Saturday, March 17.

Schneider, a Grand Forks attorney and former minority leader in the state Senate, bested former state Rep. Ben Hanson and sitting state Sen. John Grabinger for the Democratic nod. The three Democrats wrapped their arms around each other on the Alerus Center stage after Schneider nabbed the endorsement.

Schneider garnered 375 votes to Hanson's 206 and Grabinger's 31.

“The choice is going to be between a GOP nominee who is welded to the hip of the administration,” Schneider told the Democratic-NPL convention crowd. “The other choice that we’re going to present to the people of North Dakota is a member of Congress who is for North Dakota.”

Schneider joined the race early this month, while Hanson has been on the campaign trail since August. Grabinger said he would support Schneider’s run, but Hanson’s campaign didn’t rule out the possibility of a primary election challenge.

“Mac ran a hell of a campaign and I congratulate him on his victory,” Hanson said in a one-sentence statement.

Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer’s mid-February decision to challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp opened up the race for North Dakota’s lone U.S. House seat. The Republican field includes former GOP Chairman Kelly Armstrong, a state senator from Dickinson, and Tom Campbell, a potato farmer and state senator from Grafton.

The Alerus Center will also be the site of the Republican state convention in early April.

Interim GOP Chairman Jim Poolman said their candidate will “be more conservative than a liberal like Mac Schneider.” He said Republicans “have a natural alignment” with North Dakota voters on a range of issues.

Democrats haven’t held the state’s U.S. House seat since Earl Pomeroy was defeated in 2010. The former congressman offered his support to his one-time press secretary Saturday.

“We fought the political battles together,” Pomeroy said. “Through it all I always knew one thing: Big Mac had my back.”

Schneider lost his state Senate seat in 2016, as Republicans added to their supermajority in the Legislature. Tyler Axness, who also lost his bid for re-election to the state Senate that year, said Schneider is the Democratic candidate with the best shot at winning in November.

“He’s got a long history of being a very effective legislator,” he said.

Democrats said the competitive race, a rarity in recent conventions, helped add excitement to a weekend that saw former Vice President Joe Biden address delegates and Heitkamp’s endorsement for another term. They’re also hopeful they can replicate Democratic success elsewhere during the midterm elections.

Despite his party’s lack of victories in recent statewide races, Schneider is expecting a competitive contest.

“People are looking for a return to kitchen-table issues,” he said.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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