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Potter plans speeches from courthouse soapboxes

Tracy Potter plans to do some old-fashioned campaigning in his bid as the Democrat run-ning for retiring-Sen. Byron Dorgan's seat against Republican candidate, Gov. John Hoeven.

Tracy Potter

Tracy Potter plans to do some old-fashioned campaigning in his bid as the Democrat run-ning for retiring-Sen. Byron Dorgan's seat against Republican candidate, Gov. John Hoeven.

Potter, executive director of the Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation and state senator from Bismarck since 2007, said he's going to give a speech on the steps of every one of the state's 53 county courthouses.

Potter met Wednesday with student Democrats from UND in downtown Grand Forks.

According to The Associated Press, he's going to begin his speech schedule May 1 on the steps of the Kidder County courthouse in Steele because he says it's the oldest one still used as a courthouse.

But Potter will get an argument from Griggs County, which still is using the red brick Gothic-towered courthouse built in Cooperstown in 1884.

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That's because the building housing the Kidder County courthouse, while constructed in 1883, wasn't the county courthouse until 1885.

According to Kidder County Treasurer Vickie Murray, in 1883, Col. Wilbur F. Steele built a three-story brick edifice as a hotel. His plan was to showcase the hotel as a fine place for legislators to stay when they were in session in what Steele hoped would be the state capital in his eponymous city.

It soon became clear that wasn't in the cards, and the building never was used as a hotel, except by Steele and his family, Murray said.

Bismarck was named the capital of Dakota Territory in late 1883 and, of course, remained a capital city when North Dakota achieved statehood in 1889.

Steele's hotel was bought by Kidder County in 1885 and has been the courthouse since.

So, Griggs County, still using the courthouse built and first used in 1884, lays claim to having the oldest continuously used county courthouse in the state.

In 1913, the third story of Kidder County's courthouse was removed to save the foundation, which was sagging under too much weight, Murray said.

An annex was added to the Griggs County courthouse in 1965, but most county offices remain in the original building, Auditor Cindy Anton said.

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Both courthouses are on the National Register of Historic Places.

As is the oldest courthouse building in the state, Stutsman County's in Jamestown, built in 1882-83. Attached to the current courthouse, it hasn't been used as a courthouse since the early 1980s, according to Stutsman County's Web site.

Potter told the AP that along with his campaign speeches, he will talk about the history of each courthouse and take questions.

Potter said Wednesday he expects to get to the Grand Forks courthouse around October and first will hit the more rural counties.

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

Related Topics: JOHN HOEVEN
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