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Grand Forks Democrats draw about 100 to local endorsing convention

North Dakota Democrats became "complacent" in recent decades, relying on Kent Conrad, Byron Dorgan and Earl Pomeroy to represent them in Congress, U.S. Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp said Saturday.

Heidi Heitkamp

North Dakota Democrats became "complacent" in recent decades, relying on Kent Conrad, Byron Dorgan and Earl Pomeroy to represent them in Congress, U.S. Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp said Saturday.

She told a crowd of about 100 Grand Forks Democrats gathered for the local district convention that no matter how "tough" Democrats had it in the Republican-dominated North Dakota Legislature, they could rest easier knowing they had "the best congressional delegation in the history of forever."

But Dorgan retired from the Senate in 2010, Pomeroy was defeated in the House election by Republican Rick Berg in 2010 and Conrad announced last January that his current term in office will be his last in the Senate.

Heitkamp said Conrad's announcement marked a "very, very dark day" for her and other Democrats in the state. But when the senator called to see if she would run for the office, she said she sought out the advice of friends and former Democratic leaders and realized they were still working to make North Dakota better.

"And you know what I thought?" she said. "I can't give up either, and I bet you guys aren't going to give up."


'On our own'

Democratic residents of Districts 17, 18, 19, 42 and 43 gathered at Valley Middle School on Saturday for a joint district endorsing convention, an event held every other year to elect local district leadership and endorse candidates for the North Dakota Legislature.

The convention brought in several statewide Democratic-NPL Party candidates, including state treasurer contender Ross Mushik, likely Public Service Commission candidate Brad Crabtree, U.S. House candidate Pam Gulleson and gubernatorial candidate Ryan Taylor.

Grand Forks resident and U.S. Senate candidate Tom Potter also spoke to the crowd, asking for their vote at the state convention next month that will grant the party's U.S. Senate endorsement to either him or Heitkamp.

Potter's speech echoed many of Heitkamp's concerns, and he said Democrats have long relied on the talents, energy and fundraising ability of Conrad, Dorgan and Pomeroy, "the three most brilliant legislators that North Dakota has produced so far."

But now that they are out of office or preparing to retire, he said Democrats in the state are "on our own" and need to "begin to do it ourselves."

Potter said if he gets the party's Senate endorsement, he will take the "patina" of the congressional race to local appearances across the state and help Democratic candidates for the county commission, North Dakota Legislature and other offices get elected in November.

"Because if we can't recover state government, having a seat or two in the Congress won't help us that much," he said.


Local endorsements

Several local districts endorsed their candidates for the North Dakota Legislature during the Democratic convention on Saturday. Even with the endorsement, candidates could still face a challenge within their party during the June 12 primary that will decide the nominated candidates.

Here are the Democratic-endorsed legislative candidates for the local districts up for re-election in 2012.

District 18

District 18 includes parts of eastern Grand Forks, as well as Rye and Blooming townships.

• Senate: Connie Triplett (incumbent).

• House: Eliot Glassheim (incumbent) and Marie Strinden.

District 19


District 19 includes Grafton and the eastern half of Walsh County as well as the rural western and northern sections of Grand Forks County.

The district chose not to endorse candidates at this time, but will do so before the filing deadline to get on the ballot.

District 42

District 42 includes the UND campus and surrounding neighborhoods.

• Senate: Mac Schneider (incumbent).

• House: Corey Mock (incumbent) and Kylie Oversen.

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

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