Meet the candidates seeking statewide office in North Dakota
Electors will decide victors in numerous statewide races on the Nov. 3 general election ballot. Here, North Dakota Living offers its broad platform to aid voter familiarity with the slate of 2020 statewide candidates.
Presented are candidates for the statewide political party offices of governor and lieutenant governor (lt. gov.), state auditor, state treasurer, insurance commissioner and public service commissioner, and no-party or nonpartisan offices of superintendent of public instruction and justice of the Supreme Court. Political party endorsements are indicated for statewide political party offices.
North Dakota Living, the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives and North Dakota’s electric cooperatives do not endorse or recommend candidates for election. Candidate responses were not edited for style and are listed in alphabetical order.
GOVERNOR (4-year term)
1. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how connected we are. When industry, agriculture, co-ops, rural hospitals or small-town grocery stores hurt, North Dakotans hurt. What observations have you made in light of COVID-19 that will drive your policies or approach as governor? And what policy proposals will you make in response to the effects of COVID-19?
2. If you could be anyone else for a day, living or deceased, who would you be and why?
Gov. Doug Burgum is a businessman and tech entrepreneur, who literally bet the family farm to help build Great Plains Software into a tremendous success, employing hundreds of North Dakotans across the state. He later reaffirmed his passion for North Dakota by founding Kilbourne Group, a company committed to creating smart, healthy cities through vibrant downtowns and co-founding Arthur Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in ambitious, mission-driven software companies. He ran for governor in 2016 to diversify the economy, reinvent government, improve North Dakota’s main streets, and ensure North Dakota is ready to meet the future.
Now, Gov. Burgum is running for reelection to build on the foundation that Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, First Lady Kathryn Burgum and he set in their first term alongside the entire Burgum administration.
(Brent Sanford, lt. gov.)
1. COVID-19 has shown the power of individual responsibility, and that has driven our decision making since the outbreak began. As North Dakotans, we have always prided ourselves on being tough, but during COVID-19 we have been demonstrating what it means to be ND smart. Our focus on pragmatic guidelines and personal responsibility is why North Dakota never had to fully shutter our economy like other states, and they are the driving forces behind our ND Smart Restart plan.
Moving forward, the coronavirus has underscored the need to innovate throughout state government and reinvent the way many services are delivered. We need to embrace digital solutions that improve services to North Dakota residents and treat taxpayers like valued customers. We can also look at the way our workforce is structured. We’ve proven that work can be done efficiently and effectively from anywhere, and that yields great promise for the future of our workforce.
We also have an opportunity to enhance our K-12 and higher education systems as well as dramatically improve how we deliver rural healthcare, behavioral health and long-term care. For example, the heightened emergence of telehealth has already begun to transform the ability to provide care and counseling to residents in ways that are more convenient and responsive to daily life.
North Dakotans have been innovative and resilient throughout COVID-19, and I’m confident our state will again meet the challenge and emerge from it stronger.
2. In “To Kill A Mockingbird,” Harper Lee famously wrote: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Rather than imagine being any one individual for a day, let’s take these words to heart and live them.
DuWayne Hendrickson was born in Minot, where he currently resides. He is a U.S. Army veteran and Gold Star brother. Since 1979, DuWayne has been self-employed as owner of Steam Brothers in Minot and A-1 Parking Lot Maintenance. He has been married to his wife, Joann, for over 40 years, and together they have four sons and 11 grandchildren.
DuWayne previously ran for governor in 2008 as an Independent, and has sought the North Dakota Republican Party endorsement for U.S. House. He is now running for governor with the Libertarian Party endorsement in an effort to still work for a progressive state and nation.
(Joshua Voytek, lt. gov.)
1. First thing, I would not have shut our state down. I was endorsed for Governor of North Dakota by the Libertarian Party on March 14, which was the beginning of this pandemic. My thoughts on shutting down the nation were mixed. I felt the biggest impact from this shutdown would be suicide, business and job loss, orders to stay in your home, loss of Constitutional rights. My mother is 84 years young and I have to look out for those in that category also. My suggestion would have been for the elderly and those with compromised health conditions to take whatever safety precautions needed to protect yourself. I believe actions taken by the government will keep our economy slow nationwide. Our leaders have to think out the solutions to these problems a bit better to understand all the consequences. And no one thought we would be running for Governor during a pandemic.
2. I would want to be either of my grandfathers so I could see the trials and tribulation in farming and raising a family in the years prior to 1950. That would be interesting.
Shelley Lenz is a veterinarian, successful small business owner and humanitarian. She lives in a strawbale house she built herself on the land her great-grandparents homesteaded in Killdeer. As ranchers in the early 1900s, Shelley’s forefathers were members of the original Nonpartisan League of North Dakota.
Shelley is the sole owner of a large, thriving veterinary practice in rural western North Dakota, which she founded in 2007. She served on her local school board in Killdeer and was elected president during her tenure. Shelley also founded Sustainable Vets International, an international nonprofit that focuses on financial independence, agricultural resilience, education and improving people’s lives through building thriving communities. She is running for governor to help solve the complex problems of today for a solid foundation for the generations to come.
(Ben Vig, lt. gov.)
1. I decided to run for Governor before COVID-19 began, in large part because I have been worried about our state’s ability to withstand outside pressures and our over-reliance on boom and bust economies with the resultant impact on our communities. Now, with COVID-19 affecting our economy, our food security, our health care systems, education, and the well-being of all North Dakotans, those fragilities are even more evident. I have the experience and a clear vision for how we can build resilience in our state to defend us from outside forces like the COVID-19 pandemic.
North Dakota has the culture and the resources to lead the nation in advances in the agriculture and energy industries. We need to create resilient economies that get back to the tradition of defending North Dakota from outside forces both man-made or natural. We should not just be relying on one sector’s tax revenue/cuts but rather creating new businesses and stable job opportunities.
I will be a champion for public-private partnerships to provide practical solutions to economic challenges. For example, we would prioritize the state investing in a carbon capture plant and pipelines to connect all energy sectors of oil, gas, coal, wind, and geo-thermal while decarbonizing our atmosphere, improving our environment and creating synergy with higher education research opportunities and vocational trades. Our vision is the North Dakota Energy Co-op which will not simply rely on extraction taxes for state income but create new revenue sources and build North Dakota’s transition to the future.
2. Amelia Earhart. She was a pioneer and adventurer who broke new ground for women and aviation. She used her courage and smarts to build a team that transcended cultures and geography. She inspired generations in the past, present and future using her talents to break barriers and push back frontiers.
REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS (2-year term)
1. As North Dakota’s lone representative in the U.S. House, how will you successfully advocate for rural America in a legislative body skewed toward urban and coastal interests?
2. Who is the greatest (fictional) superhero of all-time?
Congressman Kelly Armstrong is a lifelong, devoted North Dakotan and a tireless advocate for making North Dakota a better place to live and work. With his background in business, his love for the outdoors and his volunteer and public service experience, Kelly is fighting for our North Dakota values in Washington and working to advance positive changes to benefit our state and country.
1. In Congress, my focus remains to ensure the future is bright for all of our kids – where they have every opportunity to succeed today and tomorrow, right here in North Dakota. As North Dakota’s lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives, I have worked every day to be North Dakota’s voice in Washington, not Washington’s voice in North Dakota. Most of my time in D.C. is spent directly advocating for rural America, by supporting North Dakota producers and educating urban consumers. Our farming, ranching, and energy industries provide the world’s food, oil, gas, and electricity. I believe the Americans feeding and fueling the world, must be accurately represented in our political process.
2. Batman!!! Batman has the best symbol, great origin story, and remains relevant in popularity, since 1940. He wasn’t given superpowers, but uses training, brains, and tactics to win the day. Plus, you can’t have a great hero without a great villain, and the Batman villains are the most interesting and diverse.
Steven Peterson, of Fargo, attended North Dakota State University and Western State College in Gunnison, Colo. He has a criminal justice background and was a professional bounty hunter for 20 years in North Dakota and Colorado. He founded Raven Rising LLC in 2015, an international sourcing company in the import and export sector.
1. Simply, it’s about coalition building. If we set aside certain platform issues, I do believe that I could wrangle together enough support from our other representatives out of South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and basically what everyone would label as “flyover country.” That as agricultural states, we have a lot of the same wants and needs of our populace to take care of our people.
I think that the proper way to make our voices heard is to get the otherwise ignored states in a unison, regardless of party, and basically put our foot down and say: “Hey, guys. If you want us to continue growing crops for you and being able to get them to your markets, you’re going to actually have to help rural America.”
Honestly, the coasts are, in this weird pathological way, greedy for their needs but blind to the people that literally grow their food for them. There comes a point where we have farmers that are losing their homes, legacy properties, and these people are doing the best that they can in the economy that the can. And it’s disgusting that we don’t have better safety nets for our rural population, specifically in our agricultural sectors.
My family has a long history in dairy farming over in Minnesota. I remember the 1980s farm collapses. I remember the hits they took throughout the decades. It gets emotional for me when I look at how Washington is blind to our rural families, because that hits home.
2. Sisyphus, the Greek effigy of the man pushing a boulder up the mountain. The imagery is always about the muscle literally looking like it’s about to break. It shows the futility of quitting tough things because the reward is just on the other side.
Zach Raknerud is a 26-year-old working class, lifelong North Dakotan. He is running for Congress because he believes government clearly operates at the behest of the political donor class. Zach is in this race to advocate for much-needed economic investments in everyday Americans at a time when wealth continues to concentrate at the top of the economy.
1. I will advocate for our rural state by highlighting exactly how people in North Dakota have been left behind by Congress. Wages have been stagnant, healthcare costs are soaring, affordable childcare is lacking and the economic foundation for our working people continues to erode by the day. Meanwhile, wealthy special interests over the last half century have purchased inordinate influence in government. Their priorities are the focus in Congress. That is why this campaign is rejecting corporate PAC money, while my opponent receives over 60 percent of his resources from those big business interests. We need young and working-class Americans from all over to step up and run for public office ourselves.
We can have universal healthcare that does not cost us twice as much per capita as our peer nations. We can utilize programs like Social Security to ensure that new families are able to start life together with paid maternity/paternity leave. We can adequately support public education and ensure the quality is not determined by zip code. We can allow young people to seek higher education and training without spending tens of thousands of dollars. We can make investments in affordable childcare. We can rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.
Our government has unlimited resources when it comes to corporate bailouts, tax cuts for the wealthy, forever wars and subsidies. It is time we call on Congress to invest in the everyday people of North Dakota and the nation.
2. I would personally say Batman for all he is able to accomplish while being just a regular human being with no special powers.
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSIONER (6-year term)
1. Proposals persist on a national level that have the potential to reduce both state and local jurisdictions over regulation of electric utilities. What is your take on such attempts and how do you view the role of public service commissioner?
2. What tops your bucket list?
Casey Buchmann is a 32-year member of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union, working out of Iron Workers Local 512 in Bismarck. He and his wife, Lois Uhlich, have two adult children and reside in Washburn, where they are active members of United Methodist Church.
Casey’s hobbies include hunting and fishing. He also attends a weekly Bible study lead by his wife and shares his life’s struggles with addiction and path to recovery. Casey wants other people in recovery to know anything is possible when you let go and let God take control.
1. Here in North Dakota I genuinely believe that our co-ops have done an excellent job at self-regulating. I do not see the need for any more interference from the federal government. The one size fits all model does not work here in North Dakota.
The regulatory framework of FERC (Feral Energy Regulatory Commission) is based on decades of old laws. This framework should be brought up to current standards that fits the local utility user and supplier. The framework is based on the premises of the power flowing out from a large utility industry to the consumer. And today, electric power and money can flow in opposite directions.
As new technologies come forward the current framework may make it difficult for competitive markets. The behind-the-meter resources will increase with the technology and may be regulated under many rate structures.
I believe that the Public Service Commission’s responsibility is first and foremost to the people of North Dakota. Making sure that the investor owned utility companies are fair to the suppliers and consumers here in North Dakota. I believe our co-op system here in North Dakota should be left to regulate themselves in the parameters of an updated framework by all parties involved.
North Dakota’s co-ops and the PSC have existed together under the current regulatory framework. I believe as new technology comes into being and a new framework is developed that is fair to all, the continued separation will be good for all the people here in North Dakota.
2. When my wife and I are both retired, we would like to travel the country and volunteer where help is needed and wanted in times of emergencies. Both of us believe that it is our responsibility to give back to our community and country.
Brian Kroshus was appointed to the Public Service Commission in March 2017 by Gov. Doug Burgum and elected by the voters in 2018. Kroshus has a background in business, agriculture and energy, and currently serves as chairman of the PSC.
Kroshus was born in Fargo and is a graduate of North Dakota State University. He deeply values his North Dakota heritage and agricultural upbringing, from time in 4-H and FFA, to present day, as the owner of a cattle and grain operation in western North Dakota. Prior to his PSC appointment, Kroshus spent 30 years in business management and leadership, including 17 years as publisher of Farm and Ranch Guide and 10 years as publisher of The Bismarck Tribune.
1. Protecting individual states’ rights is essential to preserving free-market principles. Unfortunately, ongoing federal initiatives could significantly compromise our ability to efficiently regulate our state’s electric resources.
Those efforts, including FERC Order 841 related to energy storage, equate to unwarranted federal overreach and infringement on state authority.
I have and will continue to vigorously defend the rights of North Dakota utility organizations, including our rural electric cooperatives. My role as a commissioner and chairman of the North Dakota Public Service Commission is to work with and on behalf of those I serve.
I will continue to express my concerns related to unnecessary federal intervention in areas better left to those at the state and local levels.
Rural electric cooperatives are a shining example of how local control best serves public interests. The results are clear, North Dakota utilities continue to provide some of the most reliable and affordable electric service in the country.
Simply put, the locally owned and member-led principles RECs were founded on dating back to the inception of the Rural Electrification Act, work.
I have personally made trips to Washington, D.C., to fight to protect the interests of North Dakota businesses and citizens, including some of our state’s most successful organizations, locally owned electric co-ops.
I sincerely appreciate the strong relationship I have with North Dakota Rural Electric Cooperatives. I’m running for re-election and asking for the opportunity to continue working on your behalf, to protect decisions best left to those living in our state.
2. My “bucket list” has always been to simply enjoy life. While there are certainly interesting things and places I would like to experience, it is the people in my life who matter most to me. Beyond that, another mission trip to Guatemala or Africa and running the Boston Marathon.
SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION (4-year term)
1. Numerous school bond referendums have failed in districts across the state in recent years. Is the 60 percent approval requirement for school bond referendums serving our students well? And what role, if any, should the state play in school funding issues?
2. What is your favorite school lunch meal?
Kirsten Baesler was elected state school superintendent in 2012 and was reelected in 2016. Before taking office, Supt. Baesler had a 24-year career in the Bismarck Public School system as a vice principal, library media specialist, classroom teacher and instructional assistant. She also worked for the North Dakota School Boards Association as a top aide to the association’s director and served on the Mandan school board for nine years, including seven as president.
Supt. Baesler has earned associate degrees from Bismarck State College, a bachelor’s degree in education from Minot State University and a master’s degree in library and information technology from Valley City State University. She is a native of Flasher and now lives in Mandan, where she enjoys spending time with her three adult sons and 91-year-old father.
1. In the last few years, a number of school bond issues to finance construction projects have fallen short of the required 60 percent voter majority. However, I do believe it is possible for projects to reach that 60 percent threshold if local school leaders plan frugally, in collaboration with the community. They must demonstrate to their taxpayers that they are sensitive to a project’s effect on property tax rates, and that they have considered all of the practical options at hand. As a former school board member, I believe North Dakotans want to support their public schools, but they object to projects that they consider extravagant or unnecessary. The process of building a 60 percent majority can strengthen a school’s relationship with its community and families. And the requirement leaves no question about a community’s support for a school bond issue. A bond election that is decided by a few votes does not promote community unity. The Legislature has been a strong supporter of our public education system. Our lawmakers provide the resources to offer excellent K-12 programs, and to help alleviate pressure to raise property taxes. I hope and anticipate those efforts will continue.
2. I remember the women who worked in my elementary school lunchroom in Flasher, Mrs. Monson and Mrs. Roseboehl were the mothers and grandmothers of my schoolmates. I especially remember the fresh homemade buns and macaroni and cheese. In high school, I liked the chef salads and saltines with French dressing.
Brandt J. Dick has been a life-long educator, with 25 years of experience in both private and public education. His career in education includes math teacher, track, cross-county and basketball coach, principal, athletic director, superintendent, and teaching dual-credit math as a college adjunct professor. Brandt is married to Janelle for 23 years, and they have two daughters, Brenna (17) and Britta (14). Brandt is currently serving as superintendent of the Underwood School District, president of North Dakota Small Organized Schools, and is a governing board member of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA).
1. This is a very interesting question in that it is phrased whether the 60 percent approval requirement serves our students well. It is my understanding that the 60 percent threshold was put into place to assure that property owners were protected from unfair tax increases. In school districts across the state, there have been many that have tried to pass a bond referendum for school buildings. Some districts have failed, while others have succeeded. I will always support a vote of the local patrons to determine what they need for their local school district. In those districts where a vote has failed, it is up to that community to find out why they failed and make needed adjustments to their project for it to pass.
The second question, I assume is related to the first. The State Legislature has yet to clearly define how to use the proceeds of the Legacy Fund, which continues to grow with oil money being deposited to that fund. If the State Legislature decides that the proceeds should be used for infrastructure, I would argue that school buildings are key infrastructure for any community in North Dakota. It would be great if there would be a way to provide a portion of new school buildings paid by the state, with local voter approval. This seems like the fairest way to assure all entities are part of the process of key infrastructure.
2. My favorite school lunch meal is homemade pizza. Growing up, the cooks would also make with homemade pizza, homemade caramel rolls. Hands down, favorite meal growing up, favorite meal today.
STATE AUDITOR (4-year term)
STATE TREASURER (4-year term)
INSURANCE COMMISSIONER (4-year term)
JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT (10-year term)
North Dakota Living will present any ballot measures approved by the N.D. Secretary of State for the general election ballot in its October issue. At presstime, the fall ballot had not been released by the secretary of state.
To find information on local legislative and county races and voting, including how to request an absentee ballot and vote by mail, visit www.vote.nd.gov.