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Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, during a state Senate floor session in January. Cook is retiring from the Legislature after serving since 1997.

Longtime state Sen. Dwight Cook is retiring from the North Dakota Legislature.

The 67-year-old Republican from Mandan announced Tuesday that he won't seek a seventh term in the state Senate. He has served since 1997.

"Six terms plus all my work with the internet sales tax project has me looking forward to full retirement," he said in an email notifying District 34 Republican Chairman Cody Schulz of his decision.

Cook, who chaired the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee, authored a bill during the 2017 legislative session that paved the way for North Dakota to start collecting taxes from online retailers.

In the 2019 session, Cook had lead roles in a tribal oil tax sharing compromise with the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation and co-sponsored the ambitious "Operation Prairie Dog" bill for local infrastructure improvement funded from oil tax revenue. 

In a Tuesday interview with the Tribune, he pointed to property tax reform and his involvement since 2001 on the issue of collecting online sales tax as highlights of his career. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 handed down the decision that states can collect sales taxes from online retailers.

Cook said he has enjoyed his time in the Legislature and serving his Mandan constituents.

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"I enjoyed meeting and getting to know so many of these great people. They are the reason I would introduce myself as 'Dwight Cook from Bismarck’s western, upper class suburb,'" he said.

Schulz commended Cook's knowledge and relationships in state government. 

"He'll be tough shoes to fill," Schulz said. He and Cook are gauging interest for 2020 candidates and are open to phone inquiries regarding District 34's Senate seat.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, called Cook a leader in finance and tax issues on state and national levels and lauded him for his conduct of fairness.

"He's going to be hard to replace," Wardner said. "But I believe we do have some talent in our caucus that over time they'll achieve close to his level. But there's no question his experience, his leadership, his knowledge: We're going to miss that."

Gov. Doug Burgum thanked Cook for his years in the Legislature and wished him well.

"Sen. Dwight Cook has been a true statesman and an outstanding leader in shaping tax policy for the good of all North Dakotans during his 22 years of faithful service in the Legislature," Burgum tweeted.

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Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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