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Republican field plentiful in North Dakota's District 10


With the general election 11 months away, a crowded field is already emerging in North Dakota's District 10.

At least four candidates have said they will seek the Republican nomination for the North Dakota Senate seat in that district, which includes at least parts of Cavalier, Pembina and Walsh counties. They are Curtis Olafson, a former senator of District 10, Janne Myrdal, a former state director of Concerned Women for America, Andy Adamson, a former Pembina County commissioner, and Alexander Bata, the Walsh County president of the North Dakota Farmers Union.

The District 10 seat is being vacated by Republican incumbent Sen. Joe Miller of Park River. He said last month he would not seek a third term in office mainly because of the demands of being in public office while farming.

"It's really an odd thing to have this many people running," Miller said. "I'm really excited this many people want to be involved, because that's just better for the voters."

Bob Nowatzki, who is listed as the chairman of the district's Democratic Party, said he has a couple people "interested" in running for the Legislature.

Myrdal cited the nature of the district itself as a reason for the handful of candidates already in the mix.

"I think the whole issue of social media and instant news, generally people have gotten more engaged in public policy and politics," she said. "I think there's no doubt that District 10 has been a very strong, active district for the Republicans and the conservative wing for many years."

Backgrounds, issues

Olafson was defeated by Miller in 2012 after redistricting pitted them against each other. Olafson had been in the Senate since 2006, according to Herald archives.

Abortion legislation was a major point of contention leading up to that election, even though both candidates described themselves as anti-abortion, but Myrdal said she doesn't think there's much more state legislators can do on that front going forward.

North Dakota voters rejected a "right-to-life" constitutional amendment in 2014.

"I don't foresee, nor does any other pro-life leader in the state, any other legislation coming forth on the life issue," Myrdal said, pointing out that North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has filed a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court on the state's fetal heartbeat legislation. "We've done what we can in North Dakota."

Myrdal, who plans to formally announce her candidacy after the holidays, took a sabbatical last year from her position as the state director for the CWA, a Christian public policy group. She is no longer the state director, but she remains on the organization's steering committee and isn't registered as a lobbyist, she said.

Olafson and Myrdal both cited the state budget as a major issue for the coming legislative session as oil and agriculture commodity prices drop.

"I think we're going to need people in Bismarck with experience in the political process and business experience, and I have both," Olafson said.

He is a farmer, rancher and construction business owner.

Adamson also cited the budget, as well as education and taxes, as issues that he wants to work on, but he also pointed to "drainage issues" he's noticed in the northeastern part of the state.

"The water comes north on the Red River, and we get it all before it goes into Canada," he said.

Bata, 23, did not return a message seeking comment as of Friday morning. But his campaign website said he began farming in 2012 before joining the North Dakota Farmers Union. It also said he wants to work on teacher shortages and the state's fiscal challenges.

"With the Legacy Fund reaching maturity in 2017, I would support the plan to put away the majority of it for when North Dakota really needs funding, instead of using the funds to expand the government of North Dakota," Bata said on his website.

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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