North Dakota GOP set to decide endorsement in US Senate race

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP): North Dakota Republicans on Saturday were set to endorse candidates for eight statewide offices, in what GOP organizers say is one of the best-attended conventions in recent history.

About 2,000 delegates were expected at the Bismarck Event Center.

The only contested race at the convention was the U.S. Senate seat held by John Hoeven. He’s seeking the GOP endorsement for a third term over state Rep. Rick Becker.

The Bismarck plastic surgeon is the leader of a growing faction of ultraconservatives that has made waves at small district GOP gatherings in recent weeks.

Hoeven was North Dakota’s governor before being elected to the Senate in 2010. He is the only governor in state history who won three four-year terms. He also got former President Donald Trump’s endorsement in the Senate race shortly before the convention.

Becker is a former gubernatorial candidate. After he was elected to the state House in 2012, he founded the ultraconservative Bastiat Caucus, which supports gun rights and limited government and spending.

Candidates don’t need an endorsement to run in a primary. They only need petition signatures from 300 voters to make the ballot.

Becker has said he won’t run if he’s not endorsed, while Hoeven wouldn’t say. The senator has more than $3 million on hand for a campaign, while Becker hasn’t yet filed campaign finance reports.

Also Saturday, GOP delegates were set to endorse U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak, Tax Commissioner Brian Kroshus, Attorney General Drew Wrigley and Public Service Commissioner Sheri Haugen-Hoffart.

State Rep. Michael Howe was seeking the GOP endorsement to replace Al Jaeger, who isn’t seeking reelection.

North Dakota Democrats at their convention last week finished endorsements for several statewide candidates, but the party failed to recruit contenders for secretary of state and tax commissioner.

Democrats endorsed University of Jamestown engineering professor Katrina Christiansen for the Senate seat held by Hoeven. Democrats also voted to back Mark Haugen of Bismarck for the U.S. House. He will face Armstrong, who is seeking a second term.

Convention delegates also backed former Marine and Velva native Trygve Hammer for the seat on the Public Service Commission held by Hoffart, who was appointed to replace Brian Kroshus when Kroshus was appointed to be state tax commissioner. Hoffart is running for the remainder of Kroshus’ four-year term.

Democrats endorsed Grand Forks lawyer Timothy Lamb for attorney general, the state’s top law enforcement officer. Republican Gov. Doug Burgum appointed former U.S. Attorney and Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley to serve the remainder of the term held by Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who died in January.

Democrats also endorsed Melanie Moniz, a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, for the second open seat on the Public Service Commission currently held by Julie Fedorchak.

Democratic delegates are backing Bismarck attorney Fintan Dooley for state agriculture commissioner, a position Goehring has held since 2009.