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Ballotpedia's 2012 General Election Preview Articles: North Dakota State Executive Officials

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October 31, 2012

By Maresa Strano

Portal:State Executive Officials

BISMARCK, ND: Seven state executive positions are up for election in the state of North Dakota.

Voters will make their choice for the following positions on November 6th:

Polling locations cannot open earlier than 7:00 a.m. and must be open by 9:00 a.m. with the exception of those precincts in which fewer than 75 votes were cast in the last General Election. The governing body of the exempt polling locations may direct the polls to open no later than 12:00 noon. All polling locations must remain open until 7:00 p.m. and close no later than 9:00 p.m.[1]

North Dakota is divided between Central and Mountain time zones.

In North Dakota, in order to appear on the primary ballot, a candidate must either be endorsed by an established political party and file a certificate of endorsement with the North Dakota Secretary of State or collect signatures equal to the 3% of the total votes cast for candidates for the same office in the last general election.[2] Because of this requirement, and because parties only endorse one candidate (or set of candidates in the case of governor/lieutenant governor), only one of the primary elections were contested this year: the nonpartisan race for North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction. Republicans currently hold all six of the other offices.

Incumbents are running for election in the races for governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, auditor and insurance commissioner. The current superintendent of public instruction, Wayne Sanstead, who has held the office since 1985, and Tony Clark, the current chair of the North Dakota Public Service Commission, are not running for re-election.[3][4]

 Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor 

See also: North Dakota gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial election, 2012
Republican Party Jack Dalrymple & Drew Wrigley (R) Incumbents
Democratic Party Ryan Taylor & Ellen Chaffee (D)
Independent Roland Riemers & Anthony Johns (I)
Independent Paul Sorum & Michael Coachman (I)

In North Dakota, the governor and lieutenant governor are elected on a single ticket, and from the start, incumbent team Jack Dalrymple and Drew Wrigley have been considered shoe-ins for re-election in 2012. Yet the campaign season has not been devoid of drama. For some of the challengers who entered the race this year, early setbacks coupled with the likelihood of eventual defeat meant the road ended sooner than later. For others, like Roland Clifford Riemers and Paul Sorum, the prospect of further disappointment was not sufficient to end their pursuit of the governorship, and both paved alternate roads to the general election ballot.

Back in July, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem ruled that the "single ticket" stipulation applies to the primary election as well. The ruling effectively removed two presumptive candidates from the ballot for this year's general election.Libertarian candidates Roland Riemers and Richard Ames filed their joint candidacy with the North Dakota Secretary of State, but Ames' application was missing a page and deemed invalid. Riemers ran by himself in the primary election and received more than the requisite 300 votes to appear on the general election ballot, but before Secretary of State Al Jaeger certified the results of the primary, he sought an opinion from Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. According to the state constitution, the governor and lieutenant governor must be elected on a joint ballot. Stenehjem, citing the constitution and the North Dakota Century Code, ruled that Riemers' candidacy is invalid because there was no lieutenant governor candidate on the ballot with him.[5][6]

Only one set of challengers, Democrats Ryan Taylor and Ellen Chaffee, were tapped at their party's statewide nominating convention for the chance to unseat Dalrymple and Wrigley in November. Later on, however, two Independent pairs earned a place on the general election ballot. Roland Riemers, returning with a vengeance and a new running-mate, Anthony Johns, will get to advance after all, along with Independent nominated duo Paul Sorum & Michael Coachman (I).[7]

Race projections published by The Cook Political Report, Daily Kos, and Governing Politics have consistently and unanimously rated the race Safe Republican, and the polling data, while limited, reinforces the confidence of these analyses.[8][9] Also working against Taylor and Chaffee is the fact that North Dakota hasn't elected a Democratic governor/lt. governor since 1992.

Democratic Party On the other side of the aisle, state Senator Ryan Taylor is running with Ellen Chaffee on the Democratic ticket. Chaffee is a senior fellow at the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. She worked for 15 years as President of Valley City State University, nine of which she spent doing double duty as President of Mayville State University. She has also worked as President in Residence at Harvard University, academic vice-chancellor for the North Dakota University System, director for organizational studies at the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, trustee of the MeritCare health care system, and in student affairs at North Dakota State University.[10]

Republican Party In 2000, Jack Dalrymple was elected Lieutenant Governor of North Dakota on the Republican ticket with John Hoeven, the party's gubernatorial candidate. The pair won re-election in 2004 and 2008. In 2010, though, Hoeven won a seat in the U.S. Senate, vacating his gubernatorial post and leaving Dalrymple, as his lieutenant governor, to serve the remainder of his four-year term. Dalrymple is running for election this year to a four-year term of his own, on a ticket with his current lieutenant governor, Drew Wrigley. After Dalrymple won the endorsement and support of the North Dakota Republican Party at its statewide convention, his only challenger, Paul Sorum, withdrew from the race.

 Candidates for State Treasurer  

See also: North Dakota down ballot state executive elections, 2012
Democratic Party Ross Mushik (D)
Republican Party Kelly Schmidt (R) Incumbent

Republican incumbent Kelly Schmidt has served as North Dakota Treasurer since 2005 and is seeking a third term in office. She does not face a primary opponent and will square off against Democrat Ross Mushik in the general election. Mushik has worked for 22 years in accounting, auditing, budgeting and management for various state offices, including the state tax commissioner's office, Office of Intergovernmental Assistance and Department of Emergency Services.[11]

Schmidt has faced criticism from Democrats over management of state investment funds.[12] She has said the criticism is unfounded and that she plans to continue on as she has in the role, modernizing the office and increasing transparency.[13]

 Candidates for State Auditor 

See also: North Dakota down ballot state executive elections, 2012
Democratic Party Scot Kelsh (D)
Republican Party Robert Peterson (R) Incumbent

First elected in 1996 to replace his father as North Dakota Auditor, Republican Robert Peterson is seeking a fifth term in office. Between the two, the Peterson family has controlled the office for 40 years.[14]

Peterson will face a challenge from Democratic state Rep. Scot Kelsh, who was first elected to the legislature in 1996. He said that Peterson has not acted as an adequate watchdog over state government abuses.[15]

 Candidates for Insurance Commissioner 

See also: North Dakota down ballot state executive elections, 2012
Democratic Party Tom Potter (D)
Republican Party Adam Hamm (R) Incumbent

Incumbent North Dakota Commissioner of Insurance Adam Hamm (R) was first appointed to the office in October 2007 by Gov. John Hoeven, and was elected to a full, four-year term in November 2008.[16] He was endorsed for another term at the 2012 state GOP convention without opposition.

Hamm will face retired University of North Dakota finance professor Tom Potter (D) in the general election. Potter was originally running for U.S. Senate in 2012. He said he changed races because the next insurance commissioner will serve during an "interesting period" as “Parts of the Affordable Care Act will be implemented.”[17] Potter supports the law, while Hamm has called it “the single worst example of over-regulation” that he has seen while in office.[18]

 Candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction 

See also: North Dakota down ballot state executive elections, 2012
Democratic Party Tracy Potter (D) (Did not seek Democratic convention support)
Republican Party Kirsten Baesler (R) (supported by Republican convention)

The position of Superintendent is nonpartisan - candidates run in the same ballot column and are not identified by party. However, GOP and Democratic convention delegates chose a candidate to support.

The seat opened up for the first time in nearly three decades when current superintendent Wayne Sanstead announced he would be retiring at the end of his 2012 term. Sanstead is no stranger to North Dakota voters, having been elected previously to the State House, State Senate, and to two terms as lieutenant governor before winning the post of chief education officer in 1984.[19]

This year, introductions were in order for the group of candidates seeking election to the newly available, nonpartisan position. Five challengers filed to enter the race in April, but two withdrawn bids left only three names appearing before voters on the primary ballot.

While the position of Superintendent is nonpartisan - candidates run in the same ballot column and are not identified by party - both Republican and Democratic convention delegates chose candidates to support.[20] The first place finisher in the June 12 primary was the Republican delegate's choice, Mandan School Board President Kirsten Baesler.[21] In November's general election, Baesler will face-off against former state Senator Tracy Potter, who finished second in the primary. Potter did not seek support at a party convention.[22] Retired Grand Forks teacher and North Dakota Education Association president Max Laird won the support of the Democratic convention, but received the least amount of votes and will not advance to the general election.

 Candidates for Public Service Commissioner 
See also: North Dakota down ballot state executive elections, 2012
Democratic Party Brad Crabtree (D)
Republican Party Randy Christmann (R)
Libertarian Party Joshua Voytek (L)

One seat on the three member North Dakota Public Service Commission is up for re-election this year. Twelve-year incumbent Tony Clark, who previously served as chair of the commission, did not seek re-election after resigning in June 2012.

Current state Sen. Randy Christmann received the Republican nomination at the party's convention, defeating state Rep. Blair Thoreson.[23] Christmann was first elected to the Senate in 1994. He will face Brad Crabtree, a renewable energy activist, and Libertarian Joshua Voytek in the general election.

Crabtree, who also runs a small sheep and cattle ranch, ran for the PSC in 2010, losing to Republican Kevin Cramer.[24] Crabtree has said he will not accept campaign donations from companies that the PSC regulates or from executives who work for the businesses. “Public service commissioners, as regulators, need to be held to a higher standard than, say, a state legislator or even a state official who is elected,” he said. Christmann said he has not been influenced by supporters' money in the past and will not restrict his donations.[25]

Also in the race is Joshua Voytek, a Libertarian candidate from Fargo.[26]

See also

North Dakota


Ballotpedia News
  1. North Dakota Secretary of State, "Election Calendar 2012"
  2. North Dakota Secretary of State, "Running for partisan statewide executive offices in 2012," accessed June 11, 2012
  3. Desert News, "ND school superintendent Wayne Sanstead retiring," February 17, 2012
  4. The, "ND public service commissioner Tony Clark says he won't run for re-election in 2012," May 5, 2011
  5. The Jamestown Sun, "Libertarian governor candidate won't be on the ballot," July 6, 2012
  6. The Jamestown Sun, "Grand Forks man running for governor won't be on ballot," July 6, 2012
  7. North Dakota Secretary of State, "Candidate Database 2012 General Election," accessed October 31, 2012
  8. The Cook Political Report, "Governors' Race Ratings," accessed August-October, 2012
  9. Governing Politics, "The Final Handicapping of the 2012 Governors’ Races," accessed October 29, 2012
  10. Taylor for North, "News: ND gubernatorial candidate Ryan Taylor joins Ellen Chaffee, former president of VCSU, in announcing lieutenant governor candidacy," March 14, 2012
  11. Bismarck Tribune, "Mushik officially enters treasurer’s race," March 5, 2012
  12. Say Anything, "Candidate Interview: NDGOP Treasurer Candidate Kelly Schmidt," March 29, 2012
  13. The N.D. Capitol and Beyond, "Schmidt endorsed for state treasurer," March 31, 2012
  14. WDAY, "Familiar GOP name gets boost for ND state auditor," March 31, 2012
  15. Bismarck Tribune, "Kelsh to challenge Peterson for state auditor," March 17, 2012
  16., "Insurance department: Meet Commissioner Hamm," accessed April 13, 2012
  17. Bismarck Tribune, "Potter explains insurance commissioner bid," accessed March 16, 2012
  18. Jamestown Sun, "Hamm gets ND Republican backing for insurance job," March 31, 2012
  19. North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, "Biography of Wayne Sanstead," accessed June 13, 2012
  20. Coshocton Tribune, "Max Laird wins ND Dems' favor for school super," March 17, 2012
  21. Grand Forks Herald, "Baesler backed by GOP for N.D. school superintendent," April 1, 2012
  22. The Republic, "Kirsten Baesler, Tracy Potter advance to Nov. election for ND school super; Max Laird 3rd," June 13, 2012
  23. Bismarck Tribune, "Republicans confident after competitive convention," April 3, 2012
  24. WDAY, "Crabtree to run again for ND PSC," March 9, 2012
  25. The Dickinson Press, "PSC candidate says he'll refuse industry money," April 12, 2012
  26. North Dakota Secretary of State, "Candidate Database 2012 General Election," accessed October 31, 2012