BISMARCK-U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer named a new campaign manager Monday, Jan. 15, as he begins his re-election bid for the U.S. House.

Cramer, a Republican first elected in 2012, announced Jared Hendrix of Minot will lead his quest for a fourth term this year. Hendrix managed Republican state Rep. Rick Becker's failed run for governor in 2016.

The announcement came a week after state Democrats seized on a Politico report that examined Cramer's practice of paying family members through campaign funds. Cramer said there was nothing illegal or unethical about the payments and said his wife, Kris, had been his campaign manager for a bargain.

Hendrix said his hire wasn't a response to the criticism, adding that he and Cramer had discussed him coming on board since November. Kris Cramer will still have a role in the campaign, Hendrix said.

In seeking re-election to the House, Cramer declined to run against Democratic incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

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"Before he made the decision about the Senate race, they had planned to staff up this time anyway," Hendrix said. "They just wanted to really step it up a notch and get out there and run an aggressive campaign."

Cramer has easily won re-election twice, most recently in 2016 with 69 percent of the vote. He faces a challenge this year from Democrat Ben Hanson, a former state legislator.

Cramer didn't return a message seeking comment Monday. In a statement, he called Hendrix a "strong conservative" who "has a record or reaching out and motivating new voters, especially young people in North Dakota."