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Peterson keynote speaker at N.D. convention

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., will deliver the keynote address during the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party’s state convention March 28-29 at the Fargo Civic Center, the party announced Thursday.

Dem-NPL Executive Director Chad Oban also said Thursday that the party will announce a candidate for secretary of state sometime next week prior to the convention.

After starting the year with no declared statewide candidates, Democrats will head into the convention with a full slate of hopefuls seeking the party’s endorsement.

The party has unveiled candidates in recent weeks for all statewide offices except secretary of state. Republican Al Jaeger, who has held the office since 1993, will seek his party’s endorsement at the GOP state convention April 4-6 in Minot. Libertarian Party candidate Roland Riemers of Grand Forks also is running for the position.

Oban said it’s unusual and exciting for the Dem-NPL Party to head into the state convention with a full slate.

“This is a good thing for us,” he said.

The party filled the biggest gap in its election lineup Tuesday when state Sen. George B. Sinner of Fargo answered months of speculation by announcing he will challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer for North Dakota’s lone House seat.

During his announcement stops in Casselton and Bismarck, Sinner described himself as a middle-of-the-aisle Democrat and compared himself politically to Peterson, noting the two are good friends.

Peterson, who on Monday announced his bid for a 13th term in Congress, is scheduled to deliver the convention’s keynote address at 1:50 p.m. March 29. The convention is open to the public.

In addition to speeches from Peterson and U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, delegates also will hear from former Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan and former Rep. Earl Pomeroy, who were collectively known as “Team North Dakota” when they served as North Dakota’s entire congressional delegation from 1993 to 2011. The party will have a special Saturday luncheon fundraiser to honor the trio.

Oban said the convention has a total allotment of 750 delegates, “and I think we’ll be relatively close to filling all the slots.”

“We’re going to highlight a lot of our young legislators and legislative candidates throughout the convention, as well,” he said.

Friday’s convention activities will culminate with the anticipated endorsement of cattle rancher and former state senator Ryan Taylor of Towner for agriculture commissioner. The U.S. House endorsement will cap Saturday’s schedule.

Oban said he doesn’t anticipate any contested races for the party endorsements.

“Not at this point, but you never know,” he said.

The other Democrats to announce for statewide office so far are Grand Forks attorney Kiara Kraus-Parr for attorney general; businessman Todd Reisenauer and state Sen. Tyler Axness, both of Fargo, for the two open seats on the state Public Service Commission; and Fargo attorney Jason Astrup for tax commissioner.

The North Dakota GOP has confirmed Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus as a keynote speaker at its convention, party Executive Director Jason Flohrs said.

The party remains confident in its incumbents, he said.

“From experience on the job to overall qualifications to the state going in the right direction under Republican leadership to the job that they’re already doing campaigning and raising money, I’d say we have the advantage in all four of those areas,” he said.

Republicans currently hold 20 of the 24 Senate seats up for grabs and 39 of the 48 House seats that will be on the ballot. Candidates have until April 7 to file to get on the June ballot.

“We expect to have nearly all of the legislative spots filled by the April 7 deadline,” Oban said.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.