16-year incumbent Brown, challenger Bjerke to square off in mayoral debate
Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown and City Council member Terry Bjerke have both agreed to face off in a debate, just two weeks before voters elect one of them to the city's highest office.
Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown and City Council member Terry Bjerke have both agreed to face off in a debate, just two weeks before voters elect one of them to the city’s highest office.
Hosted by the Grand Forks Herald, the event is slated for the evening of Wednesday, June 1 at the Empire Arts Center. Invitations to the debate were extended this week, and both men enthusiastically accepted.
“It’s healthy. It makes you evaluate what you believe and take pride in what you think is important,” Brown said, reiterating the philosophy of community investment that’s led him to support the arts and special events spending that Bjerke so bitterly opposes. “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity.”
Bjerke said he’s ready to attend as well.
“There’s few things in life I enjoy more than debating. I’m all fired up for it,” he said, drawing a comparison between his own spendthrift thinking and Brown’s ideas. “Like I said from the beginning, the citizens are going to have a clear choice.”
Immediately preceding the mayoral debate, the Herald plans to host a candidates’ debate for City Council. Each debate will last about an hour and be open to the public.
The Herald also plans to solicit questions from the public in advance and moderate the debates. Mayoral candidates will be allowed opening statements. They will be given a limited time to answer questions and allowed brief rebuttals, and offer closing remarks to conclude the event.
Both Brown and Bjerke officially declared their intentions to run on Dec. 1 . Besides a Herald piece explaining what’s at stake in this year’s election , neither man has made any significant public mention of the race since, though Bjerke has consistently noted his intention to run a disciplined and dogged campaign.
And though both men’s names have dominated the conversation surrounding the mayoral election, it’s still not too late for more candidates to enter the race. City Clerk Alice Fontaine said the final day to register for the ballot for both City Council and the Mayor’s office is April 11; paperwork is due at City Hall by 4 p.m. that day.
Herald Publisher Korrie Wenzel said the mayoral debate is part of an ongoing effort by the newspaper to be more visible in the community. Earlier this month, the Herald announced it will sponsor a day of high school football games Oct. 7 at the Alerus Center.
Brown briefly explained the importance he sees in attending the debate.
“It’s just like the lottery,” he said. “You have to be present to win.”
Bjerke is just as committed to showing up.
“Barring death or an unfortunate accident on the way there, I’ll be there,” he said.