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District 17 goes to primary

Terri Berg1 / 5
Edward D. (Ed) Grossbauer2 / 5
Mark S. Owens3 / 5
Mark Sanford4 / 5
Ray Holmberg 5 / 5

The North Dakota legislative race in District 17 attracted four candidates to register for the primary election, including three incumbents.

But it also brought a write-in candidate to run for a House seat.

The three Republican incumbents, Sen. Ray Holmberg and Reps. Mark Sanford and Mark Owens, registered for the primary, along with Grand Forks senior firefighter Ed Grossbauer, who’s running for a House seat as a Democrat.

Terri Berg, another Democrat running for a House seat, is mounting a write-in campaign.

District 17 includes a portion of south Grand Forks and an area just west of the city.

The primary election for state legislative seats will be held June 10, followed by the general election on Nov. 4.

Legislators serve four-year terms. They are paid $453 per month for each month in office plus $162 for each during the legislative session and for attendance at interim committees or other official meetings to which each legislator is appointed, according to the North Dakota Legislative Council.


Terri Berg

Party: Democrat.

Address: 815 40th Ave. S., Unit G128.

Age: 53.

Family: children, Mike, 26; Kristin, 23; Trevor, 21; Cameron, 18.

Education: graduate, Red River High School; one year at UND.

Occupation: art teacher, Grand Forks Public Schools and Valley Memorial Homes; owner/operator, La Touche Finale.

Leadership experience: creator and director, Art Therapy Program; assistant to the executive director, Artwise; parent leader, hockey association; chairwoman, Terrace Park Association; parent leader in school classrooms.

Why are you running for state legislature? As a parent and teacher, I see many challenges facing our young people today, issues that even two years ago we would have not thought possible. We need to plan for the future while addressing current issues such as community safety, housing and education.

What are the top issues facing state government? Rapid, unstructured growth throughout the state; quality, affordable education; adequate appropriation of resources; and allocation of the appropriate financial aid.

What are the top issues for your district? Quality of life through the ages, community safety, quality education for our students.

How would you address these issues? The needs of the state are not being met through the current biennial structure — our state is growing and changing too rapidly. I believe we need to re-evaluate how often the legislature meets to stay ahead of the challenges instead of being one step behind.

 What is your position on the constitutional amendment to restructure the State Board of Higher Education? I do not feel a board of three individuals can adequately make decisions that would positively affect the education of an entire state. I agree that some changes have to be made; I think we need to look a little closer at the alternatives.

What is your position on the proposed amendment to devote 5 percent of oil extraction taxes to outdoor conservation? It would be a wise decision to give back to the areas affected by the oil extraction. We need to work to protect our land and wildlife for future generations.


Edward D. (Ed) Grossbauer

Party: Democrat.

Address: 622 23rd Ave S., Grand Forks.

Age: 50.

Family: wife Ann; children John, Emily, Sarah, Lily.

Education: St. Thomas Aquinas/National Labor College/Penn Foster College.

Occupation: senior firefighter, Grand Forks Fire Department.

Leadership experience: former vice president, North Dakota AFL-CIO; board member, North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance; Fire Fighters Local 242; Professional Fire Fighters of North Dakota.

Why are you running for state Legislature? I believe it is time for change. North Dakota families deserve better. I will bring a family-centered perspective, common sense and open mindedness to our state Legislature. We must engage in thoughtful planning, instead of reacting to tragedy and emergency. There must be more balance in Bismarck.

What are the top issues facing state government? Sustainable, responsible, permanent, accountable property tax relief; student loan debt and the interest rates charged to our college graduates; public safety; education; responsible energy exploration.

What are the top issues for your district? Taxes, student loan debt, retention of our best and brightest young people.

How would you address these issues? Taxes: I am a fan of the Alaska Permanent Fund concept, where all residents receive a dividend check. Student loan debt: I would pursue a way to reduce the interest rates charged by the Bank of North Dakota. Retention: Continue to develop our Centers of Excellence, pay people a wage that will encourage them to stay.

What is your position on the constitutional amendment to restructure the State Board of Higher Education? I clearly recognize that there are issues with the SBHE, but I don’t know if this proposal is the answer.

What is your position on the proposed amendment to devote 5 percent of oil extraction taxes to outdoor conservation? I believe that this proposal will be in the best interest of our entire state. It is clear that the unfettered energy exploration is causing significant problems: lower hunting licensing numbers, decreased upland birds and spills into waterways. I believe this fund will address some of these issues.


Mark S. Owens (incumbent)

Party: Republican.

Address: 5865 Fountain Vista Drive, Grand Forks.

Age: 57.

Family: single.

Education: MS, Central Michigan University.

Occupation: account executive, Iteris Inc.

Leadership experience: vice chairman, Interim Finance and Tax Committee; vice chairman, First Liberty Federal Credit Union; associate vice president, Iteris Inc.; co-founder and senior vice president, Meridian Environmental Technology; former director, Total Quality Management Office, Grand Forks Air Force Base.

Why are you running for state legislature? To work with people from all sides of the political spectrum who, rather than simply complaining about a problem, genuinely are willing to sit down and workout the best solution for all, not just special select groups.

 What are the top issues facing state government? The balanced application of revenues to meet the needs of the state. The appropriation of revenues requires a long-term view based on the prioritization of needs. From infrastructure and schools to highways and water issues.

What are the top issues for your district? Growth, taxes, schools, and affordable housing.

How would you address these issues? Growth: Increase one-time funding for needed infrastructure. Taxes: In the current revenue environment, there is no logical argument for increasing taxes. Schools: Funding is at an all-time high and school boards need to step up. Affordable housing: Transparency, flexibility and ease of application of property taxes and changes to reduce initial costs of home ownership are key.

What is your position on the constitutional amendment to restructure the State Board of Higher Education? The current structure was put into the constitution in the 1930s during the Great Depression. It is time for the people of North Dakota to revisit that decision. The people will decide if the current independent board structure stays in place or if the governance of higher education changes. 

What is your position on the proposed amendment to devote 5 percent of oil extraction taxes to outdoor conservation? This measure doesn’t belong in the constitution but as a statute in law. It lists numerous applications for funding but allows for only two to ever be funded. It creates an earmark for conservation ahead of schools, roads, housing, etc. There are too many issues to list in the space allowed here.

Mark Sanford (incumbent)

Party: Republican.

Address: 675 Vineyard Drive, Grand Forks.

Age: 75.

Family: wife Gloria, two adult daughters and their families.

Education: doctoral degree, educational leadership.

Occupation: retired superintendent, Grand Forks Public Schools and Grand Forks Air Force Base School District.

Leadership experience: president, North Dakota High School Activities Association; president, State Investment Board; president, North Dakota School Administrators Association; president, Teachers Fund for Retirement; board member, Community Violence Intervention Center.

Why are you running for state legislature? North Dakota faces challenges as we deal with the significant opportunities provided by our strong economy. I would like the privilege of a second term as a legislator with the belief that my career leadership experiences and the legislative skills developed over the past four years could be useful in the process of defining the state’s role in meeting those challenges.

What are the top issues facing state government? Development of infrastructure, continued tax reform and relief, workforce development, and quality of life issues such as strong education services and rural health delivery.

What are the top issues for your district? Our district, as well as this part of the state, shares the statewide issues mentioned previously. Locally it will be important for our legislators to seek advice from various groups regarding tax policy, economic development opportunities such as the unmanned-aircraft-system technology park, housing needs, transportation priorities and water development.

How would you address these issues? Addressing these issues with the following strategies: Use special funds the legislature established to deal with infrastructure, water and other strategic investments. Manage ongoing commitments to the extent they do not exceed our regular general fund capacity. Continue restructuring tax policy. Rely on the expertise of local and state groups for sound advice.

What is your position on the constitutional amendment to restructure the State Board of Higher Education? Higher education has governance issues that have been in the news for too long. Some changes are needed. However, I am not convinced the measures proposed are the best response.

What is your position on the proposed amendment to devote 5 percent of oil extraction taxes to outdoor conservation? I am opposed to the conservation proposal. We have a fund just recently established that should serve this purpose.


Ray Holmberg (incumbent)

Party: Republican.

Address: 621 High Plains Court, Grand Forks.

Age: 70

Family: two children, four grandchildren.

Education: bachelor’s and master’s degrees, UND.

Occupation: retired high school counselor.

Leadership experience: chairman, Senate Appropriations Committee; chairman, Legislative Management, the committee that oversees the legislature during the interim.

Why are you running for state legislature? Continue the work I started a number of years ago. Grand Forks is doing well but needs strong experienced voices in the legislature.

What are the top issues facing state government? Property tax reform, education, infrastructure needs in both the west and the east, and responding appropriately to a rapidly growing state economy and population.

What are the top issues for your district? The issues I listed above are universal and apply both state-wide and to Grand Forks.

How would you address these issues? The state has funded kindergarten now it’s time to fund preschool.

What is your position on the constitutional amendment to restructure the State Board of Higher Education? I believe the problems facing higher ed are not structural, which this amendment would change, but the problems result from a genuine lack of leadership from the board members and the board office.

What is your position on the proposed amendment to devote 5 percent of oil extraction taxes to outdoor conservation? I believe appropriating money in the state constitution is the wrong way to go. We live in a dynamic ever-changing world and the legislature must be able to act quickly in some economic situations. We also set up a similar conservation program during the last session and appropriated up to $30 million. Let’s see how that works first.

How to vote

Voting in North Dakota is as “easy as pie,” the secretary of state’s office says. Here’s what you need to know:

  •  When to vote: Election Day is June 10 and polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Early voting in Grand Forks County is 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today at Grand Forks’ Alerus Center, 1200 S. 42nd St.
  •  Where to vote: To find polling locations for June 10, enter your address into the secretary of state’s website listed below. The Alerus Center is the only polling location for early voting.

To vote by absentee ballot, see your county auditor or go to the secretary of state’s website.

  •  Registration: Registration is not required but a state-issued or tribal government-issued identification card is. This includes driver’s licenses and identification certificates issued by North Dakota universities and by long-term care facilities. These are not the same as ID cards.
  •  More info is on the secretary of state’s website at

Profiling the candidates

The Herald has been profiling area political candidates this week.

  •  Today, it’s those running for North Dakota Legislature in District 17.
  •  Saturday, it will be legislative candidates for District 43.

Grand Forks School Board candidates were profiled Sunday, Grand Forks Park Board candidates Monday, Grand Forks City Council candidates Tuesday, Grand Forks County Commission Wednesday and legislative District 19 Thursday.

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.  

(701) 255-5607