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District 34 Republicans endorse House incumbents, former commerce commissioner for Senate

District 34 Republicans endorse House incumbents, former commerce commissioner for Senate

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Mandan-area District 34 voters could see a Republican primary challenge for who is the party's North Dakota Senate candidate.

District 34 Republicans met on Tuesday for their convention, endorsing Reps. Todd Porter and Nathan Toman and former North Dakota Commerce Commissioner Al Anderson for the district's open Senate seat. Small business owner Doug Larsen also offered his name for the Senate endorsement.

Larsen said he is weighing whether he will compete with Anderson in the June 9 primary election for the Senate nomination. He had announced his candidacy on Friday, after talking for a long time with his wife, Amy, about a run.

Longtime Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, is retiring and not seeking reelection, leaving District 34's Senate seat open.

Anderson said he looks forward to the primary and the process ahead.

"It doesn't matter if I have competition or not -- that's always a good thing; and so from my standpoint, I'm just going to work real hard, get out and touch as many people as I can, find out what the key issues are for them and move forward," he said Wednesday.

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Anderson was state commerce commissioner from 2011-16. He was appointed by then-Gov. Jack Dalrymple after retiring from 30 years in the oil and gas industry, including six years as manager of Tesoro's Mandan Refinery, now owned by Marathon Petroleum. He also served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He announced his candidacy more than six months ago.

Larsen, who also is a lieutenant colonel in the North Dakota National Guard, said he will decide by the end of the month if he will pursue the primary. He said he chose to run out of an interest in "financial transparency and accountability," seeing the right time in his family life for an election bid. He'd like to see more serious conversations about property tax relief.

"I think it might be time to put some fresh eyes on this, some business eyes, some people that have been small business leaders, not necessarily managers," Larsen said. 

Porter, first elected in 1998, owns Metro Area Ambulance. Toman, first elected in 2012, works in information systems for Ducks Unlimited.

Republican District 34 Chairman Cody Schulz said about 125 people attended the endorsing convention. Anderson, Larsen, Porter and Toman were the only candidates, he said.

"I was very excited about the number of participants as well as new participants," Schulz said. "There was a lot of energy in the room."

District 34 Democrats so far have no candidates after their Feb. 1 endorsing convention. Party spokesman Alex Rohr said "nobody is ready to announce in District 34 yet."

Legislative candidates have until April 6 to file petitions or certificates of endorsement with North Dakota's secretary of state to be included on the June 9 primary ballot.

Twenty-three Senate seats and 46 House seats are on North Dakota's 2020 ballot.

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

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