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House race heating up: Schneider, former senate minority leader, to seek seat

Former N.D. Sen. Mac Schneider is announcing a run for U.S. House.

Mac Schneider, North Dakota’s former Senate minority leader, announced that he will launch a campaign for the state’s lone U.S. House of Representatives seat on Tuesday. A Fargo-based attorney, his decision reshapes the Democratic side of the race and brings new intensity to the days before party’s state convention.

Schneider is planning campaign events Tuesday in Grand Forks, Fargo and Bismarck to announce his campaign. He could not be reached for comment by the Herald on Monday afternoon.

Though Schneider does not hold office, he served as a Grand Forks state senator from 2009 to 2016, losing a re-election bid the same year a Republican wave crested around the country, costing him and other Democratic-NPL colleagues their seats. In recent weeks, he’d said he had “no plans” to run, but as incumbent Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., shifted his sights from re-election to the U.S. Senate, the House seat has been left open -- and a crowd of candidates are now clamoring to fill it.

Schneider’s next political call will be at the the Democratic-NPL convention, set for March 15-18 in Grand Forks, where he’ll contend for the party’s endorsement. State Sen. John Grabinger, D-Jamestown, and former West Fargo state Rep. Ben Hanson will also vie for the party’s nod.

“(Schneider’s campaign) makes it a lot more of a daunting task to win that endorsement,” Grabinger said. He contrasted himself with his “eastern colleagues,” though, and said he’s proud of his experience, his background and his voting record. “We’re going to continue to work on that and gain the support of our delegates across the state. I’ve been making phone calls and we’ve been doing all kinds of work to gain their support and trust.”

Hanson’s campaign responded similarly.

"Democrats in this part of the country have to work twice as hard to get half as far, and that's why we've seen Ben traveling across the state for the last seven months,” a campaign spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “Competition is a good thing, so Ben will continue putting in the work leading up to the convention, including a trip to Williston later this week."

Schneider, who was a football captain at UND, attended Georgetown University Law Center. He was elected to the state Senate in 2008 and served two terms, and in a December interview said he was happy with his work at the family law firm, where he practices civil law and represents “the underdogs,” on a range of issues.

His campaign announcement only describes his legal and legislative credentials, and does not wade into the issues he’ll raise in his campaign.

Should Schneider appear on November’s ballot, he will have to persuade an electorate that has leaned red in recent years and which, polling suggests, has remained relatively friendly to Republican President Donald Trump. The Republican field has several candidates vying for the party nod: State Sen. Tom Campbell, R-Grafton, Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-Dickinson, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Tiffany Abentroth,  DuWayne Hendrickson and Paul Schaffner.

"From the grassroots up, the Democratic-NPL is seeing enthusiasm like we've never seen before,” party spokesman Daniel Tick wrote in an email. “That's reflected in the number of qualified, hard-working candidates who are stepping up to run for local and statewide offices, and it's reflected in the number of people walking in off the street and asking: 'How can I get involved?' What can I do to help?' "   

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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