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Grand Forks Republicans draw good crowd at district convention

More than 130 Grand Forks Republicans filled a meeting room Thursday night at Phoenix Elementary School to prepare for their state convention next month in Grand Forks.

More than 130 Grand Forks Republicans filled a meeting room Thursday night at Phoenix Elementary School to prepare for their state convention next month in Grand Forks.

It was the biggest and most enthusiastic turnout in 20 years for such an off-year district meeting at which would-be delegates sign up to endorse candidates at the state convention, party insiders said.

National issues such as concern about the Democrats' health care reform plans and growing federal deficits are combining with the first real Republican competition for the state's congressional delegation in years, said Bruce Gjovig, a longtime party activist.

Since longtime U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said a month ago he won't seek re-election in November, the national mood also has put U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy's long-held and never-threatened seat in play, Gjovig said.

For the first time in a long time, everyone who wants to be a delegate to the state convention, which is March 19-21 in Grand Forks, may not make the grade because of the high numbers, Don Dietrich said.


"We expect about 2,000 at the state convention," he said. "In other years, we've had only about 1,000."

Districts 17, 18, 42 and 43 met Thursday night. District 19 Republicans meet at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Larimore Fire Hall. This year, only legislative seats in odd-numbered districts are up for election.

Grand Forks Democrats will hold their endorsing conventions for Districts 17, 18, 19, 42 and 43 beginning at 9 a.m. Feb. 20 in the Community High School, 500 Stanford Road. They also will hear from statewide elected officials and candidates.

The Democrats' state convention is March 26-28 in Fargo.

Dietrich urged the Republicans to sign up as delegates.

"Become involved. You will be choosing our next U.S. senator," Dietrich told the crowd, standing on a chair to get their attention.

The decisions about who will be chosen as delegates and alternate delegates will be made in about a month, two weeks before the state convention.

Kevin Cramer, Paul Schaffner and Rick Berg, the three candidates running against Pomeroy, gave speeches. So did Paul Sorum, candidate for the Senate, and the state's first lady Mikey Hoeven, who spoke for Gov. John Hoeven, also running for the Senate.


John Hoeven is in Kosovo visiting the state's National Guard troops there.

Would-be delegates had to fill out rather long forms and pay a fee.

David Waterman, a middle-aged Grand Forks businessman, said this was the first district nominating convention he ever had attended.

"The reason I'm here is that our country is spiraling down so fast," Waterman said. "If we don't get working to cut spending in our country, we won't have a country to pass on to our children and grandchildren."

Nicole Bredahl, 20, is a UND student from Fargo who never had attended a party convention before. But she signed up to be a delegate to the state convention from District 42, she said.

"The College Republicans advertised it," said Bredahl, one of several people at the meeting who first got involved in the Tea Party phenomenon the past year.

"I went to both Fargo Tea Parties," she said. "It's more national issues I'm concerned with, the growth of government spending and the health care issue."

Zack Tiggelaar, 22, also a UND student who signed up to be a delegate, said for him it was all about "freedom and liberty. I'm tired of the government telling us how to live our lives."


Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to slee@gfherald.com

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