The National Journal’s Hotline on Call blog recently took a stab at what many North Dakota political reporters, politicians and political junkies have been focused on for the past week – who might be on the ballot for the U.S. Senate in 2012 now that incumbent Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad has announced he won’t seek another term.
As writer Jeremy P. Jacobs summarized the issue in his article last Friday, “the question isn’t who is going to run – it’s who isn’t.”
Here’s part of the Hotline on Call article:
“All I can tell you,” said North Dakota GOP Chair Stan Stein, “is the field is wide open.”
The list of potential Republicans is extensive, but already some tiers are forming. At the top of the GOP wish list are Gov. Jack Dalrymple, former Gov. Ed Schafer newly elected Rep. Rick Berg.
Dalrymple, who took over the governorship when Hoeven won the Senate seat, is also considering running for a full term as governor — a decision that will have a big impact on the race. Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley (R), for example, is likely to run for whichever office Dalrymple decides against.
After those three, the list gets long very quickly. Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk has already jumped into the race and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is also eyeing it. So is Public Commissioners Chair Tony Clark, Tax Commissioner Cory Fong and state Treasurer Kelly Schmidt, who told Hotline On Call: “I definitely have not ruled it out.”
There is also a long list of potential Democratic contenders, though most of them would likely start out as the underdog in the 2012 race. North Dakota Democratic Party Executive Director Joe Aronson acknowledged that Conrad retiring may make it tougher for Democrats to hold on to the race. “It puts us in a different situation,” he said. But, he added, “we have a lot of talented people in our party.”
Former Attorney General and 2000 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Heidi Heitkamp is considered a top potential candidate for Democrats, and her brother, Joel Heitkamp — a former state senator who has a talk show — has also been mentioned. Former state Sen. Tracy Potter, who ran and lost to Hoeven last year, could also run again. USDA Rural Development Director Jasper Schneider is another name people are talking about, as is state Sen. Mac Schneider and U.S Attorney Tim Purdon.
But Jacobs points out that there probably won’t be much news on this issue in the near future because the campaign season is still far away and many contenders remain focused on the current session of the North Dakota Legislature session that could stretch into May.