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Kalk announces U.S. Senate candidacy, other Republicans considering race

FARGO - Exuding patriotism laced with political ambition, Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk declared Wednesday that he offers the discipline Washington needs to address the problems facing the nation.

Kalk press conference
Brian Kalk announces his candidacy for the U.S. Senate on Wednesday at the NDSU Alumni Center. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO - Exuding patriotism laced with political ambition, Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk declared Wednesday that he offers the discipline Washington needs to address the problems facing the nation.

Kalk, a Republican and former Marine, confirmed his candidacy in the 2012 Senate race during an enthusiastic speech to at least 75 supporters here Wednesday evening.

Kalk said issues such as energy regulation and national security drove him to launch his campaign, which began in January with an exploratory committee.

"It will be a real challenge to go to the Senate and make a difference, and it won't be easy to make the hard choices that will make our country great again," Kalk said. "We have many challenges, but they'll be met and they will be overcome. It's time to change the way we operate in D.C. - That's why I want to be your next U.S. senator."

Kalk, 45, is the first candidate to enter the Senate race, but even he acknowledged there'll be others vying for the GOP's endorsement next spring.

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After encouragement from state Republicans - including a formal letter of support from dozens of statewide officials and legislators - Rep. Rick Berg said this week he's "seriously considering" a run at the Senate.

Berg said Wednesday he has no timeline of when he might decide on the race, adding that he's focusing on his role as the state's lone congressman.

Meanwhile, several other Republicans are weighing a bid to challenge Kalk for the party nomination - including state Sen. Tony Grindberg of Fargo and state Rep. Kim Koppelman of West Fargo.

Similarly, state Sen. Tim Flakoll of Fargo said he's still considering it, but he said if Berg sought the Senate, he wouldn't challenge him.

In that case, Flakoll said he might consider running for the House seat.

State House Majority Leader Al Carlson of Fargo said he'd consider the House race only if Berg ran for the Senate.

Among Democrats, several possibilities have been named, but no obvious candidate has come forward yet for either federal race.

State Sen. Mac Schneider of Grand Forks said Wednesday he intends to seek re-election to his legislative seat.

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Meanwhile, his cousin USDA Rural Development State Director Jasper Schneider said he hasn't made any decision yet, but "I recognize that things change quickly in politics."

Other potential contenders previously mentioned include Senate Minority Leader Ryan Taylor of Towner and state Rep. Corey Mock of Grand Forks.

Kalk said Wednesday he'll stand apart from other Republicans who jump into the Senate race, because he was the first candidate to step forward - and did so even before Democratic incumbent Sen. Kent Conrad announced his forthcoming retirement.

Kalk acknowledged he'll be called an "underdog" and said he might face criticism for not having "paid my political dues," but he vowed to earn the people's vote.

Kalk's political career began in 2008 when he won a seat on the PSC. He is halfway through a six-year term. Kalk continues his statewide announcement tour today and plans to visit 20 cities within the next couple weeks.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are both Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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