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Democrat Taylor joins race for N.D. governor

BISMARCK -- Senate Minority Leader Ryan Taylor said he's running for governor to give a voice to North Dakotans who feel like they aren't being heard.

Ryan Taylor
Ryan Taylor portrait

BISMARCK -- Senate Minority Leader Ryan Taylor said he's running for governor to give a voice to North Dakotans who feel like they aren't being heard.

Taylor, 41, of Towner officially entered the North Dakota governor's race Monday with an emailed announcement. He is planning a multicity tour following the holidays.

Taylor said his major campaign issues will include the state's energy development, the need for a long-range vision for the state, children's issues and holding the line on college tuition. Taylor also wants to bring more political balance to state government and provide greater transparency.

Taylor is the only Democrat to declare interest in the governor's seat. He will face Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple or Republican candidate Paul Sorum of Fargo in the November election. Taylor said he didn't have a name to release yet as far as his preference for a lieutenant governor.

North Dakota hasn't had a Democratic governor since George Sinner in 1992, but Taylor thinks North Dakotans will identify with his small-town background and his willingness to reach out to everyone.


"You talk to folks, whether it be at the counter at the gas station or the checkout in the grocery store, and one thing you find is there are people who still feel like their voice isn't being heard in state government and they're looking for a way to exercise that voice," Taylor said.

Taylor has served in the state Senate since 2003 and was chosen as minority leader this past session. He and his wife, Nikki, operate a ranch near Towner. They have three children: Marshall, 7; Olav, 5; and Sylvia, 3. Taylor also is a columnist for Agweek magazine, which is owned by Forum Communications Co., parent company of the Herald.

Nikki Taylor said her husband will bring "a whole new perspective to leading the state and bringing together ideas." He has more of a constituent-based approach than government-based, she said.

"With our young children, it is somewhat the motivation behind our effort in putting Ryan in the governor's office," she said. "We love what we do. We love where we live. We want to do what's best for everyone in North Dakota."

Nikki Taylor, who grew up on a farm in McKenzie County, said her interests as first lady would be families, youths and women's issues.

Amanda Godfread, a campaign spokeswoman for Dalrymple, said they welcome Taylor to the race and look forward to a good year ahead. Sorum said he's focused on getting delegates lined up for the Republican state convention in March.

"I'm not sure that I really know enough about (Taylor) to react other than to say it's going to be very difficult for any Democrat to run a successful campaign in light of what a dismal failure Barack Obama's progressive agenda has been," Sorum said.

Taylor said he knows he will be outspent in the race, but he will focus on meeting with people one-on-one in their communities.


"If you resonate with people and you meet them and find out what their real concerns and needs are, I think you can have success at the ballot box," Taylor said.

Who is Ryan Taylor?

Taylor is a fourth-generation North Dakotan. In 1903, the Taylors founded the family ranch, which was inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2010.

Today, the Taylor ranch consists of nearly 2,900 acres of rangeland and hay meadows. The Taylors raise a few horses and more than 200 commercial Angus cow/calf pairs.

Taylor graduated from Towner High School and attended Minot State University before transferring to North Dakota State University, according to his official campaign site.

He graduated with honors in 1992 with bachelor degrees in agricultural economics and mass communications, along with a minor in animal and range sciences. He then returned home to help manage and operate his family's ranch with his father.

Taylor's small business, Sandhill Communications, has provided communication and marketing services for agricultural clientele in seven states and three Canadian provinces.

In 1995, Taylor worked with the startup Northern Plains Premium Beef Cooperative and led outreach efforts to more than 3,200 cattle producers in seven states and two Canadian provinces. He helped raise $10 million in pledges of producer equity for the venture.


Taylor also worked in veterinary pharmaceutical sales for Fort Dodge Animal Health and grew sales from $1 million to $2.47 million in his first two years as territory manager.

Taylor is also known for his syndicated column, "Cowboy Logic," and is the author of two books: "A Collection of Cowboy Logic" and "Cowboy Logic Continues."

At 32, Taylor ran for the state Senate from District 7, which includes McHenry and Pierce counties and parts of Benson and Sheridan counties. Legislative assignments included working on education, agriculture, transportation, economic development, work force development and natural resources issues.

He received the 2010 Children's Champion award for his work fighting for the education, care and protection of North Dakota's children. Taylor is a member of the North Dakota Stockmen's Association and a trustee of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Historical perspective

Born on July 22, 1970, Taylor would be among the youngest governors to serve North Dakota, if elected.

Taylor will be 42 years, 3 months and 15 days old on Nov. 6. Rick Collin of the State Historical Society of North Dakota said seven governors were younger: Andrew Burke (1891-93), Frank Briggs (1897-98), Joseph Devine (1898), Lynn Frazier (1917-21), George Shafer (1929-33), William Guy (1961-73) and Allen Olson (1981-84).

Devine is the state's youngest governor at 37 years and 5 months old. As lieutenant governor, Devine succeeded Briggs, who died in office.


Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.

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