GRAND FORKS — Mac Schneider is in.
After a year out of politics, the former state Senate minority leader launched his bid for North Dakota’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, March 6 -- picking up his political career after a 2016 loss and starting a sprint to the Democratic-NPL convention.
“I want to make clear to the people of North Dakota that I’m going to focus on the bread-and-butter issues that people care about,” Schneider said. “Things like strengthening Social Security and Medicare, policies that create jobs, infrastructure development and also balancing the budget.”
The move sets in motion a three-way race to the Democratic-NPL convention in March -- where he’ll contend with former West Fargo state Rep. Ben Hanson and Sen. John Grabinger, D-Jamestown, for the party’s endorsement.
During Tuesday’s announcement, made at a UND coffee house, Schneider fashioned himself as less a partisan and more as a sensible independent, striking middle-of-the-road politics shared by many North Dakota Democrats. He argued that he’s “not running against the president.” But he contrasted himself with multiple Republicans seeking the House seat, who he said appear locked in a contest to prove greater loyalty to the White House.
"I’m running for North Dakota. I’d be honored to work with President Trump. I’ve been pleased to see that the administration has taken steps to roll back some burdensome regulations, like Waters of the U.S. rule,” he said, praising the Trump administration’s pro-military moves. "But the loyalty of North Dakota’s only member of Congress has to be bigger than one person or one party leader. It has to be to the state of North Dakota and to North Dakotans.”
Schneider said that means “preserving access to health care,” noting his support for Medicaid expansion in 2013, as well as “preserving trade agreements” that benefit the state’s farmers and ranchers.
“If those North Dakota priorities are threatened, I will stand up for North Dakota, and I will work alongside anyone to make sure we stand up for Social Security and Medicare and that we stand up for North Dakota jobs,” he said.
Whatever Democrat appears on the November ballot will face the victor in a crowded Republican field. Candidates for the GOP include Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-Dickinson, Sen. Tom Campbell, R-Grafton, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Tiffany Abentroth, DuWayne Hendrickson and Paul Schaffner.
Schneider, a graduate of both UND and Georgetown University Law Center, was elected to the state Senate from Grand Forks in 2008. He served through 2016, when he lost his re-election bid alongside a slew of other Democratic incumbents. Since his defeat, he’s since continued to practice civil law.
His announcement comes just weeks after Schneider had said he had “no plans” to seek the seat. On Tuesday, he said concerns a campaign would strain his family have been allayed.
“What’s really changed for me, just in the last couple of days, is that previously I thought that, business-wise, it wasn’t something I could do, and I was worried about adversely affecting my family. It’s become clear over the last week that I can do this. I can put in the effort that North Dakotans expect … and also balance out those family and business concerns.”
Asked how much incumbent Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer’s decision to seek a U.S. Senate seat -- and decline re-election -- factored into his decision, Schneider said it offers an “opportunity for a course correction” in North Dakota and the country.
As he enters the race, he will have to work to make up ground on opponents who have been seeking this seat for longer -- months longer, in Hanson’s case. He said he’s confident that he’ll have the fundraising support he’ll need in months ahead, and said he’s hard at work to secure a party endorsement.
“I spent about 10 hours this weekend calling all my friends across the state who are going to be attending the Democratic convention,” Schneider said. “(Hanson and Grabinger) are my friends, and either one of them would be an excellent member of Congress. But I think what’s exciting about this convention is that, for the first time in a long time, there’s competition.”