Amid cancer battle, Grand Forks’ Rep. Mark Owens to skip re-election bid

Owens served briefly in the House from 2005 to 2008, and again since 2011. He’s the current chairman of the House Education Committee.

Mark Owens
Rep. Mark Owens (Photo provided by North Dakota Legislative Council)

GRAND FORKS — State Rep. Mark Owens will not seek-reelection amid a battle with cancer.

“I’d rather not talk about it,” Owens, R-Grand Forks, told the Herald. “Me even saying ‘cancer’ is out of character for me. It’s just that it’s lasted longer than I had hoped it would reach a termination point where I could deal with it on a day-to-day basis. It’s still going to take a while longer, so I think it’s best for everyone concerned not to run.”

Even if Owens were to run, he said, he now lives in District 43, which is in the suburban heart of Grand Forks — not in District 17, where he was most recently elected, which covers Grand Forks’ southern end. State Sen. Ray Holmberg, also a Republican from Grand Forks and a chief political mapmaker during last year’s redistricting process, said on Wednesday that as legislators drew and finalized new maps, they had sought Owens’ input but had not heard back about a recent change of address.

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“Between chemotherapy and radiation and surgery, I wasn’t exactly on the phone all the time,” Owens said.

Owens served briefly in the House from 2005 to 2008, and again since 2011. He’s the current chairman of the House Education Committee.


Holmberg, also elected from District 17, praised his colleague’s work in the Legislature.

“He was certainly dedicated.” Holmberg said, praising Owens' hard work. “His passion was finance and tax, but he ended up chairing the education committee, and I think he did a good job on the education committee. I certainly wish him the best. The big C (cancer) is a tough row to hoe.”

State Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Grand Forks, is the third legislator elected from Grand Forks’ southern end. He said he’s heard news that Owens is “on the road to recovery.”

“I would probably add that it’s important for him to take the time to get through the healing process. He has been a good colleague to work with,” he said, listing Owens’ work on education, transportation and veterans’ issues.

"There are nice guys in politics, and there are those that are less than that," Holmberg said, adding that Owens is "a nice guy.”

Sam Easter is a freelance reporter who has been a regular contributor to the Herald since 2019. He covers a variety of topics, including government and politics.

In 2015, he joined the Herald’s staff as City Hall reporter, covering North Dakota politics at all levels and conducting Herald investigations through early 2018, when he began his freelancing career.

Easter can be reached at or via Twitter via @samkweaster.
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