Editor's note: This is the second part in a two-part series on North Dakota's legislative races on the November ballot. The first part focused on races in Fargo and Grand Forks.
BISMARCK — As the November election draws closer, legislative candidates across North Dakota are putting in their final pitches to voters.
In all, nearly half of the state Legislature is on the Nov. 3 ballot, though some candidates will slide to reelection unopposed.
Republicans are looking to grow their supermajority in the House of Representatives and Senate, while the Democratic-NPL Party is trying to regain some influence after more than 25 years in both chambers' minority. The winners of this year's election and incumbents will convene Bismarck next year when North Dakota's citizen Legislature convenes for its biennial session.
In Jamestown's District 12, Democratic Sen. John Grabinger is trying to hold on to his seat against Republican challenger and political newcomer Cole Conley. Grabinger, who owns a boat dealership, aims to secure a third term in the otherwise GOP-held district and has received a campaign contribution from former U.S. Heidi Heitkamp's political committee. Conley, a retired farmer, has put nearly $33,000 into his own campaign fund and has received a sizable donation from Gov. Doug Burgum.
The two Republicans currently representing the district in the House are looking to fend off a pair of Democratic challengers. Rep. Bernie Satrom cruised to victory in his 2016 bid for a first term. His counterpart, Mitch Ostlie, was recently appointed to take the place of former Rep. Jim Grueneich, who moved out of the district and mounted a failed bid this summer for state representative in another district. Ostlie just eked out the second place finish in the June primary over Grant Christensen to make it to the November ballot. Both Satrom and Ostlie have received $2,500 contributions from Burgum.
Satrom and Ostlie will face Democrats Pam Musland and George Barnes. Musland lost a bid for the same seat in 2016, while Barnes has never run for the Legislature before. Both candidates are well-funded with about $30,000 in donations between them. All three seats in the district were held by Democrats as recently as four years ago.
Another Democratic senator, Larry Robinson, is fighting to keep his seat in District 24, which encompasses Valley City. The longtime lawmaker faces Republican first-time candidate Mike Wobbema, a veteran of the North Dakota National Guard. Robinson, a higher-up at Valley City State University, is the lone Democrat in a district that has swung more conservative over the last decade. Robinson has a massive edge in fundraising over his opponent, who is mostly self-funded.
In the district's House races, Republican Rep. Dwight Kiefert is hunting for a third term, while a fellow Republican and two Democrats are seeking election. GOP candidate Cole Christensen, a political newcomer, aims to replace Rep. Dan Johnston, who unsuccessfully ran for the Republican nomination in the state treasurer's race. Meanwhile, Naomi Muscha and Bradley Edin are vying to take back Democratic control of the district. Muscha previously represented the district in the House for one term, but lost a bid for reelection in 2016. Despite their unelected status, both Democrats hold a strong lead in fundraising.
The sweeping rural District 26, which lies west of Wahpeton, presents a similar situation. Longtime Democratic Sen. Jim Dotzenrod, a farmer from Wyndmere, aims to retain his seat against Republican challenger Jason Heitkamp. Dotzenrod, who lost a bid for Agriculture Commissioner in 2018, has a massive advantage in fundraising over his GOP opponent, who has only raised $1,000.
Two Republican incumbents are looking to hold onto their seats in the district's House races. Rep. Sebastian Ertelt, an engineer, and Rep. Kathy Skroch, a farmer and nurse, are contending for second terms in office. Democratic candidates John Hokana and Alan Peterson are hoping to win election to the state Legislature for the first time. All four candidates are on relatively even footing in the fundraising battle.
After an unprecedented set of circumstances, lots of eyes are on the House race in District 8, which lies north of Bismarck. Powerful Republican Rep. Jeff Delzer lost his bid for reelection in the primary to a pair of newcomers with heavy financial backing from Burgum, but one of those candidates, David Andahl, died from COVID-19 earlier this month. Secretary of State Al Jaeger said it was too late for Andahl's name to be removed from the ballot as mail-in voting had already started.
Now, Republicans are hoping their other nominee, Dave Nehring, and Andahl will win in November over two Democratic candidates. If Andahl gets enough votes, district Republicans can appoint someone to take his place in the Legislature. Kathrin Volochenko and Linda Babb have other plans. The Democrats, with barely any campaign funds between them, hope to win in the ordinarily conservative district.