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A North Dakota Republican Party leader says the party’s bar for the 2018 election is set extremely high as members approach their state party reorganization meeting slated for Friday and Saturday at the Ramkota Hotel in Bismarck.

Jim Poolman, vice chairman of the North Dakota GOP, said speakers are slated for Friday, including Bob Paduchik, co-chairman of the Republican National Committee. Paduchik was previously state director for President Donald Trump’s campaign in Ohio, a role he also held in his home state for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.

“They’ll get an update on the national political landscape, an update on the Trump agenda, on the 2018 landscape,” Poolman said.

Party reorganization will be begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. 

“As of today, my plan is to run again,” Poolman said when asked whether he’ll seek another term in the No. 2 role.

During the legislative session, Dickinson state Sen. Kelly Armstrong said he plans to run for another two-year term as party chairman.

The party is riding high with its string of electoral success in recent elections, with the major target in 2018 being Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., according to Poolman.

“We’ll be very focused on that. Any time you’ve been as dominant as the Republicans have been in North Dakota … the bar is set very high,” Poolman said.

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Heitkamp hasn’t announced a re-election campaign but is considered likely to run. More than $1.6 million in funds were raised during the first quarter of 2017 in her most recent Federal Election Commission campaign finance report. Wildlands firefighter Dustin Peyer, of Driscoll, has announced his candidacy to challenge her at the state party convention next year.

No Republicans have announced their intention to run, but the most prominent rumored candidate who’s still undecided is third-term Rep. Kevin Cramer.

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The Senate seat held by Heitkamp is one of several Democratic-held seats in Republican-dominated states that are expected to be high-profile targets by the GOP next year.

Heitkamp is the lone Democratic member of the three-member congressional delegation and the party’s only statewide elected official.

Republicans hold two-thirds majorities in both legislative chambers that are their most lopsided in decades. The party also holds every statewide elected office in the Capitol tower.

Poolman said he found it amusing to have received a piece of Heitkamp literature in his mail recently.

“She knows she’s going to need Republican votes; she just won’t be getting this one,” Poolman said with a laugh.

The North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party held its reorganization and leadership elections in April. Chairwoman Kylie Oversen and Vice Chairman Warren Larson were both re-elected.

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(Reach Nick Smith at 701-250-8255 or 701-223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.)

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