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Democrats energized going into convention

The recent passage of health care reform was like "switching on a light" for the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party, state chairman Mark Schneider said Wednesday.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy
Earl Pomeroy

The recent passage of health care reform was like "switching on a light" for the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party, state chairman Mark Schneider said Wednesday.

The party's state convention kicks off today at the Fargo Civic Center. Democrats will endorse candidates Friday and Saturday to run for five statewide offices and two of the state's three congressional spots.

"We're looking forward to a good convention," Schneider said. "It was fairly ho-hum until the health care vote passed."

Several delegates have told him they are "fired up like they haven't been in a long, long time," Schneider said.

About 700 delegates and 180 alternates had registered by Wednesday.

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House race

Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., was one of 219 U.S. House Democrats to vote for the $940 billion health care reform Sunday. It was signed into law Tuesday by President Barack Obama.

That vote could be a boost to Democrats, Schneider said, despite Republican threats that a vote for the bill would mean losing office in the November election.

"With the passage of the health care reform bill, and particularly the courageous vote of Congressman Pomeroy, it was like switching on a light for the party," he said.

Schneider said more people will support the reform as they learn the details.

"I think it's just going to get more popular as time goes by," he said. "By November, I'm very confident it will be a big positive for our candidates nationally and locally, particularly Congressman Pomeroy."

Still, Schneider said "there's no question" that Pomeroy will have a tough campaign ahead of him if he wants to be re-elected to a 10th House term. Democrats will officially endorse their House candidate Saturday morning.

Pomeroy is being challenged by state Rep. Rick Berg, R-Fargo, who got the Republican endorsement Saturday at the state convention in Grand Forks.

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But voters will likely recognize the "great deal of courage" it took for Pomeroy to vote for the bill amid heavy Republican opposition and "massive distortion" from insurance companies, Schneider said.

"Has it energized our base? You bet," he said. "We're going to be all in for congressman Pomeroy."

Convention lineup

Today's convention events are mostly official party business and committee meetings to prepare for the main events Friday and Saturday.

Delegates will endorse candidates for four statewide offices Friday, including agriculture commissioner and attorney general.

Kulm, N.D., rancher Brad Crabtree is seeking the party endorsement to run for public service commissioner. Republican Kevin Cramer is seeking re-election to the office, which he has held since being appointed in 2003.

Friday, Democrats will also endorse their candidate for secretary of state. State Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, is seeking the endorsement to challenge Republican Al Jaeger, who has held the office since 1993.

Delegates will endorse candidates for the state tax commissioner, U.S. Senate and U.S. House Saturday morning.

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Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., has held the spot for three terms since 1992 but announced in January he would not seek re-election. Democrats will show a video tribute to him Saturday afternoon, followed by remarks from Dorgan.

State Sen. Tracy Potter, D-Bismarck, is seeking the Senate endorsement. But he'll face competition from Gov. John Hoeven, who picked up the Republican endorsement Saturday.

Democratic activist and author Paul Begala will give a keynote address at 1:15 p.m., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., will speak at 7:30 p.m., during the convention banquet.

Schneider said the close House race, vacant Senate seat and, now, health care reform passage are all reasons why state Democrats have become "more energized" as the convention approaches. "We recognize what's at stake," he said.

But those factors are energizing both parties, Schneider said.

"The Republicans are literally salivating over the chances of taking the Senate and the House," he said. "They haven't had it for decades."'

Johnson reports on local politics. Reach him at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: JOHN HOEVENRICK BERG
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