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Re-election bid

North Dakota State Auditor Josh Gallion announced his re-election bid Thursday at Republican Party headquarters in Bismarck. He’s seeking a second four-year term, pledging “effective and responsive government” in his role of regularly auditing state agencies’ books. He’s drawn attention in recent years for publicizing results of deep-diving performance audits, such as a 2018 probe of the governor’s office’s “inappropriate” use of state planes, which the office denied. The Republican-controlled Legislature earlier this year moved to require lawmakers’ approval for performance audits, which Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem later said is likely unconstitutional as a separation of powers violation. Gallion said he is following Stenehjem’s opinion and will proceed as he always has in conducting performance audits. One is underway now -- a review of state fees -- which Gallion said will be complete by early 2020. He is the first statewide elected official to announce intentions for the 2020 election. No Democratic-NPL challenger has yet announced a run against Gallion. A Democrat last held the state auditor’s office in 1894. Gallion is a former accounting manager for the North Dakota Public Service Commission and is a U.S. Air Force veteran.

North Dakota State Auditor Josh Gallion intends to seek a second four-year term in 2020.

The Republican elected in 2016 planned to officially announce his re-election bid Thursday at North Dakota Republican Party offices in Bismarck and Fargo. 

Gallion, 40, is a former accounting manager for the North Dakota Public Service Commission and a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. The state auditor conducts regular reviews of state agencies' books.

"I think we've made some tremendous progress on improving communication, leveraging technology, promoting transparency and accountability of all levels of government, and I think we have opportunities to do even more," Gallion told the Tribune on Wednesday. "I am looking forward to that possibility if the citizens of North Dakota so choose."

Gallion has drawn the spotlight for publicizing results of deep-diving performance audits of state offices and agencies, such as a 2018 probe of the governor's office's "inappropriate" use of state aircraft -- which the office denied -- and irregularities by other state entities.

The 2019 Legislature, citing a need to improve communication, moved to restrict Gallion's ability to pursue performance audits, but Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said the law signed by Gov. Doug Burgum likely is unconstitutional. Gallion has said he'll ignore the law and heed Stenehjem's opinion.

The Republican-controlled Legislature's move prompted an unsuccessful ballot initiative effort to strike the language restricting the auditor.

Gallion faced no Democratic-NPL challenger in the 2016 auditor's race, which was left open as former longtime Auditor Bob Peterson stepped down.

Democratic-NPL Party Chairwoman Kylie Oversen said her party has been searching for potential candidates but has no announcement yet. Democrats plan to put forth "a strong candidate," she said.

"One of the things that we're curious about is if there will be any other challengers from the Republican Party or another independent candidate given some of the discontent there's been with Auditor Gallion's actions and relationships he's had with legislators," Oversen said.

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A Democrat hasn't held the state auditor's office since 1894.

Gallion declined to comment on the potential of a Republican primary challenge.

"Right now I'm just focused on my campaign and what I can do. That's beyond my control," he said.

Republican Party Chairman Rick Berg did not immediately return a phone message regarding the race.

Gallion is the first statewide candidate to announce a 2020 bid. His office is one of seven on the statewide ballot next year, along with  governor/lieutenant governor, state treasurer, state insurance commissioner, superintendent of public instruction, and one seat each on the North Dakota Supreme Court and the Public Service Commission.

Republicans hold every statewide elected office in North Dakota.

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

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Capitol Reporter