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Laffen to run for N.D. Senate

Grand Forks business owner Lonnie Laffen is seeking Grand Forks Republicans' endorsement to run for the North Dakota Senate, he announced Sunday night.

Lonnie Laffen
Lonnie Laffen

Grand Forks business owner Lonnie Laffen is seeking Grand Forks Republicans' endorsement to run for the North Dakota Senate, he announced Sunday night.

Laffen has lived in Grand Forks with his wife, Pam, since 1985. He started an architecture practice, JLG Architects, in 1989 that now employs 40 people.

Laffen said he's always had an interest in the Legislature and the state, and used to take his three sons to Bismarck during legislative sessions to show them how the government process works.

"I've always known I would eventually do this," he said about running for office.

Laffen planned to wait for retirement before serving in state government. But his company's growth and hiring of more partners who could help run the office helped him decide to run this year instead, he said.

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Laffen is seeking the endorsement to represent District 43, which includes much of south Grand Forks. If endorsed, Laffen will challenge one-term incumbent and Democrat JoNell Bakke.

Grand Forks Republicans will formally endorse their candidates at a 7 p.m. convention today in Century Elementary School.

Issues

Laffen said the state needs to create jobs, something his small business experience would help him do.

"That's probably our biggest issue, and I know how to do that," he said. "We've done that at our firm. I know what it takes at the state level."

That effort, Laffen said, also would help deal with another important issue: keeping the state's youth in North Dakota instead of seeing them leave the state to find a good job.

"I would work really hard to build our state's ability to attract top talent and top jobs and still retain our very successful youths that are coming out of our colleges," he said. "We export probably the brightest, hardest-working youth in the nation. I would like to see them stay here."

Laffen said he also would focus on energy development because it's a fiscal opportunity. North Dakota has traditionally been "one of the less privileged economically states," he said, but the oil boom could help change that.

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If elected, Laffen said he would help develop infrastructure to attract even more development and production from the oil industry.

"We've done a great job of that over the last probably 10 years," he said. "It's an enormous opportunity right now."

Laffen supports creating a permanent oil tax trust fund, he said, because the money could help lower taxes while investing more into cities and schools. It could even help make permanent a $400 million property tax relief package that was passed by lawmakers in 2009, he said.

"It's our state's oil and our children's oil," he said. "We need to preserve that value that was there for generations to come."

Laffen said he would work to address water management policies, a "Red River Valley issue" as Fargo considers flood mitigation plans. A regional water authority should be formed to work on these issues, he said.

Laffen also would like to address transportation issues and road quality in the Grand Forks region.

But he was quick to point out he has never been a traditional politician and would bring a fresh perspective to the Senate.

"I don't know that I've ever really been involved in the Republican Party until now," Laffen said. "I've always been less political and more motivated to help our state."

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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: JONELL BAKKE
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