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Mac Schneider, defeated in '16, sets sights on on law career

Grand Forks attorney Mac Schneider reads an inscription on a framed print of former N.D. Gov. Art Link. The print was given to Schneider by former state Senate Minority Leader Ryan Taylor. (Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)

Just a little more than a year ago, Mac Schneider was North Dakota's Senate minority leader—then came Nov. 8, 2016.

Democrats around the state were routed. None of the party's statewide candidates cracked 30 percent of the vote. In Grand Forks, the state party's chairwoman and a Democratic senator who'd served more than a decade were unseated. And despite a resume that includes a stint as a UND football captain and a degree from Georgetown Law, Schneider—in the midst of a promising political career—was out.

And by this time next year, Schneider won't live in Grand Forks anymore. As his family's law practice takes him more and more often to Fargo, he's moving there with his two children, ages 5 and 1, and his wife, outgoing Grand Forks City Council member Crystal Schneider. They expect to move after their oldest child's school year is complete.

"The windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror," Schneider said. "That's true in politics, that's true in life. That's the way I've looked at things since the fall of 2016. It's professional opportunity."

Schneider said he's taken more time to focus on his law career. He works with a practice founded decades ago by his father and two uncles, working in civil law—that's everything from Social Security matters to class actions to workers' compensation. Schneider likes the range of the work, representing clients "from Hillsboro to Singapore," and said it gives him a chance to advocate, too.

"We represent the underdogs. There are lawyers who represent Fortune 500 insurance companies, and good for them," he said. "We represent people who have been treated unfairly, either by the government or the insurance company or some other way."

State Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, served with Schneider for years in the Legislature. In 2011, he shared a rented house in Bismarck with him and still admires Schneider's ability to wring the most out of a day, rising early to work at the Capitol, but still carving time out for a workout and personal time later—before often rounding out the day yet again at the Capitol.

But despite his work ethic, Schneider lost in 2016 to now-state Sen. Curt Kreun, R-Grand Forks, who bested him with 52 percent of the vote. At least for now, the loss has ended Schneider's political career at its apex.

Mock said Schneider's loss was heavily influenced by national political forces—one that left Mock as the only local Democratic winner among state senators and representatives in the 2016 elections. He said his wife, Jeannie, cracked a dark joke on election night, asking if he ought to ask for a recount to see if he lost, too.

"Heck, I remember going door-to-door myself, and people would say 'Hillary or Trump?' And you kind of sigh," Mock said, remembering widespread disappointment that those two were the mainstream choices for president. "There was a lot of discouragement, there was a lot of frustration with this election. I think it turned out a whole different electorate."

Mock has still urged Schneider to run for office. He mentioned him as a potential candidate one year ago amid speculation that Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., or Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., might get picked for a Cabinet post, clearing a re-entry into politics. Mock added that he's passed notes when they're in the same room that say "Congress?"

"He's got a good background. He's an attorney. He played football at UND. He's got kind of an all-American type personality," said Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson. "Yeah, I would say if he decided he wants to get back, he could."

Schneider ruled out a 2018 run for office but said he would run later if the right opportunity presented itself. He describes a feeling he's long felt when he reads headlines or checks the news—the sense that things ought to change.

"That feeling doesn't go away," he said.

Sam Easter

Sam Easter is a City Government reporter for the Grand Forks Herald. You can reach him with story tips, comments and ideas at 701-330-3441.

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