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N.D. POLITICS NOTEBOOK: Independent governor candidate

BISMARCK -- A Minot man running for governor has a running mate and 150 petition signatures, he said Friday, adding that his campaign is "falling into place."...

BISMARCK -- A Minot man running for governor has a running mate and 150 petition signatures, he said Friday, adding that his campaign is "falling into place."

DuWayne Hendrickson must turn in 1,000 signatures to the secretary of state by Sept. 5 to get on the ballot as an independent. He said Dana Brandenburg, LaMoure, N.D., recently approached him and offered to be his lieutenant governor candidate.

Hendrickson said he began gathering signatures July 18 in the State Fair parking lot, even though the fair has a rule barring petition circulation on the fairgrounds except at a leased booth. The rule has been upheld by the North Dakota Supreme Court.

"I would not be running for governor if I did not believe I could do (an) awesome job for N.D. and each and every citizen," Hendrickson said in an e-mailed statement.

Brandenburg was Reform Party candidate for U.S. House in the 2000 primary and got 71 votes in the general election as a write-in.

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Hoeven leads poll

National polling organization Rasmussen Reports found this month that Gov. John Hoeven leads challenger Sen. Tim Mathern, Fargo, 66 percent to 26 percent. The support includes 32 percent of the state's Democrats. Hoeven is viewed favorably by 80 percent of North Dakotans and unfavorably by 18 percent, with 62 percent of voters giving him a good or excellent rating.

Rasmussen did the telephone poll July 8 in North Dakota. Its associated Rasmussen Markets shows Hoeven with an 81 percent chance of winning.

In 2004, Hoeven held former Sen. Joe Satrom to 27.4 percent.

Vance vs. Schmidt

Mitch Vance, the Democrats' challenger to state Treasurer Kelly Schmidt, said Schmidt is wrong to take credit for a Web site on consumer financial education.

A news release last week from Schmidt's office describes her speaking at a meeting in Washington, D.C., where "Schmidt described the success of northdakota.

tomorrowsmoney.org, a Web site created by her office to provide personal finance education."

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Vance said advice on the site may be sound, but it is virtually identical to the Bond Market Foundation's www.tomorrowsmoney .

org and several other state treasurers' sites.

Also, he said, "I just don't think it's the business of the treasurer or any state official to lecture us on budgeting," he said.

Schmidt said she tailored the North Dakota page of tomorrowsmoney.org to North Dakotans and did most of the work personally.

Hamming it up

Republican Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm is using taxpayer money to help his election campaign by giving himself a prominent role in advertisements that promote Insurance Department help for seniors, Democrats said.

Hamm's Democratic opponent this fall, Fargo attorney and state representative Jasper Schneider, said he would seek equal time under federal campaign broadcast advertising rules from radio and television stations that have broadcast the ad.

Its television version opens with a shot of Hamm speaking on the state Capitol mall, with his name and job title superimposed on part of a fluttering American flag. He narrates throughout the 30-second advertisement.

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The advertisements' production expenses and broadcast time were paid for by federal grant money that is intended to make seniors aware of services that benefit them, Hamm said.

Though officeholders have appeared before in public service announcements, Schneider told The Associated Press, "I don't think they have been this blatant, in-your-face political."

"This is more about politics than public service, and I think North Dakotans see that pretty clearly," he said. "Why butt (the ads) up right next to the election? ...These are public funds, they're taxpayer dollars, and they are very blatantly going to further this politician's career."

Hamm said the ads are intended to publicize Insurance Department programs that help North Dakota seniors get free or cut-price prescription drugs, and information on Medicare and other health insurance plans. The programs are called Prescription Connection and the State Health Insurance Counseling Program.

It cost $4,380 to make the television and radio ads, and $30,600 is being spent on air time, he said. They began running last week. They are scheduled to end Aug. 17.

Hamm said the ad's summertime airing is because some seniors who get Medicare prescription drug benefits have reached an annual aid limit, called the "doughnut hole," that requires them to be responsible for all their prescription drug costs until they reach a separate, higher spending threshold.

"These are not political ads," Hamm said. "The message of the ad is very simple. It is, 'Are you having a hard time affording medications or paying for your prescription drug. If you are, there is help available.' And what we're finding out just this first week is that folks are calling, looking for assistance on these exact areas."

Hamm is running for his first elected term as North Dakota's top insurance regulator. Gov. John Hoeven appointed Hamm, a former Cass County prosecutor, to the position last August after incumbent Republican Jim Poolman resigned.

Missed one Berlin

With Sen. Barack Obama visiting Berlin, Germany, last week, Sen. John McCain's campaign aired radio ads in three other Berlins -- Berlin, N.H.; Berlin, Pa., and Berlin, Wis.

A couple of North Dakotans or former North Dakotans pointed out to us that McCain missed at least one -- Berlin, N.D., population 35 (in 2000). It's also the birthplace and burial place of the late U.S. Sen. Milton Young, a Republican.

Realtors endorse

The North Dakota Association of Realtors endorsed five Republicans last week: Gov. John Hoeven, Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm, state Treasurer Kelly Schmidt and Public Service Commission candidate Brian Kalk.

Cole reports for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald. The item about Adam Hamm came from The Associated Press.

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