Two political fights are likely to draw an unusually high number of voters to the midterm elections on Tuesday.
The race for U.S. Senate, in which Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., is challenging Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., has garnered national attention for its potential to tip the majority party in that chamber.
The other high-profile political battle has opposing forces digging into Measure 3, which would legalize recreational marijuana in the state. Opponents are forecasting the demise of responsible parenting to questioning the future use of police K9s if Measure 3 passes. The measure will require 179,000 criminal records to be expunged within 30 days.
More ballot initiatives
While other measures and races have not garnered as much attention, a ballot initiative proposing the creation of a state ethics commission has been heatedly debated. Measure 1 has seen members of North Dakotans for Public Integrity rally around its passage as well as fend off criticism by the newly formed North Dakotans for Sound Government, which has characterized the language of the ballot measure as vague with too much opportunity to infringe upon First Amendment rights.
Two other measures, Measure 2, which would slightly change the wording to clarify that only U.S. citizens can vote in state and local elections, and Measure 4, which would give volunteer emergency personnel free license plates, are on the ballot. While Measure 2 has gotten little attention, with many baffled by why someone would spend so much time and effort on a nonsequitur, Measure 4 has put legislators' online calculators to work figuring it would take $3 million a biennium for this service. Some volunteer emergency personnel have said they would rather see that money spent on training programs.
Candidates on the run
The next big-ticket item to which voters will want to determine is who will take Cramer's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Democrat Mac Schneider and Republican Kelly Armstrong have put "North Dakota Nice" on the front lines as they have campaigned in the most congenial manner and touted their willingness to reach across the aisle.
Libertarian Roland Riemers added a twist to this year's political campaigning when he fell short of the 300 votes he needed in the primary election to advance in the secretary of state race. While he won a lawsuit for a recount in which one extra vote was added to bring him to a total count of 248, he ultimately lost ballot status for his party. He also conceded that the state voting system was quite effective. Then the frequent candidate for state office launched a write-in candidacy for North Dakota's agriculture commissioner. Other candidates for state ag commissioner are Republican Doug Goehring, the incumbent, and Democratic-NPL nominee Jim Dotzenrod, a state senator from Wyndmere.
Secretary of State Al Jaeger has seemed unfazed by his roller-coaster ride in a bid to retain his state position. The Republican Party at first endorsed Will Gardner, who ultimately withdrew following news of his conviction for window peeping. Jaeger will appear on the ballot as an independent though the Republican Party did issue a letter of support to him. Running against Democratic-NPL challenger Josh Boschee and independent Mike Coachman, Jaeger has been criticized for the pace of updating technology in his office.
Other state races have been relatively quiet. Republicans Randy Christmann and Brian Kroshus, who currently serve on the Public Service Commission, are being challenged by Democratic-NPL candidates Jean Brandt and Casey Buchmann.
In a race for a 10-year term on the state Supreme Court, voters will weigh Justice Lisa Fair McEvers, who has served almost five years, and longtime Bismarck trial lawyer Bob Bolinske Sr., who previously ran unsuccessfully in 2016.
Area candidates for the state Legislature have been doggedly knocking on doors to spread word of their election campaigns.
Sen. Erin Oban, D-Bismarck, and Republican challenger Gary Emineth said they expect to continue meeting with District 35 voters up until Election Day. While Oban is seeking her second term in office, Emineth showed up after bowing out as a candidate for the U.S. Senate.
Two Bismarck parents who joined a grassroots movement last year to protect neighborhood schools are now running for state House of Representatives for District 35.
Democrats Joe Elsberry, an outreach coordinator for Great Plains Food Bank, and Rachel Thomason, an attorney with a focus on adoption and guardianship law, are among a group of first-time political candidates running for Bismarck-Mandan area state legislative seats.
Meanwhile, Republican incumbents for District 35 House emphasize their experience. Rep. Bob Martinson, the member of the Legislature with the longest tenure, Rep. Karen Karls, who has served in the House since 2007, will be defending their seats.
In District 47, the Senate race in northwest Bismarck has two first-time legislative candidates, Republican Mike Dwyer and Democrat Brandi Jude. Both are seeking the seat held by Republican Sen. Ralph Kilzer, who is retiring.
In the District 47 House race, first-time candidate Sabina McGarrahan Gasper is the only Democrat on the ticket along with Republican incumbents Lawrence Klemin and George Keiser.
In District 7, which includes Lincoln and portions of Bismarck to the north and east, Democrat Paul Wilkins is challenging Republican incumbents Rick Becker and Jason Dockter for the House. Republican incumbent Nicole Poolman is running unopposed for District 7 Senate.
For District 31, which includes Mandan, Rachele Hall is the only Democrat on the ballot for the state Legislature. Incumbent Donald Schaible, a farmer from Mott who has served in the Senate since 2011, said he’s seeking another term to continue working on education funding.
Rep. Karen Rohr, R-Mandan, and Rep. Jim Schmidt, R-Huff, are running unopposed for District 31 House seats.