Former U.S. Attorney and Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley plans to make a bid for state attorney general.
Wrigley informed the Tribune of his decision in an interview on Thursday. He plans to make a formal announcement next week.
Wayne Stenehjem, North Dakota’s longest-serving attorney general, announced earlier this month that he won’t seek another term. He was first elected in 2000.
Wrigley, 56, cited his attorney and leadership experience as well as his family's business background and his stints in the private sector. He will seek the Republican Party's endorsement at its state convention in April in Bismarck. He's the first candidate to announce.
"I'm starting immediately the work of seeking my party's nomination. I want to be the Republican standard-bearer for attorney general," Wrigley said. "I've set everything else aside. This is my full-time endeavor."
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He will be campaigning statewide, appearing at district GOP gatherings and meeting party delegates throughout early 2022.
Wrigley, a Bismarck native, spent five years as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, investigating and prosecuting violent crime, drug trafficking and sex crimes before returning to North Dakota in 1998.
He served as North Dakota’s U.S. attorney from 2001-09, during which he prosecuted Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. for the killing of University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin in 2003. The case was North Dakota’s only one involving the federal death penalty.
He served as lieutenant governor from 2010-16, initially appointed by Gov. Jack Dalrymple to fill the role Dalrymple left when he succeeded former Gov. John Hoeven, who resigned to enter the U.S. Senate.
Republicans Dalrymple and Wrigley won their only full term in 2012.
In 2015, Wrigley disclosed he had an extramarital affair. At the time, he was considering a gubernatorial bid. He said on Thursday that the affair was "a purely painful, difficult, personal matter."
In 2017, he joined Sanford Health in Bismarck as an adviser after leaving office.
In 2019, the U.S. Senate confirmed then-President Donald Trump’s nomination of Wrigley as U.S. attorney for North Dakota, a post he held for about two years until he resigned in February 2021 due to the new Biden administration. The move is typical after a change in administration.
Since then, Wrigley has been working with his family's two industrial contracting companies in Fargo.
Attorney general is one of a few high-profile jobs on next year's ballot, which also includes secretary of state and tax commissioner. The three longtime incumbents are not running.
Wrigley said that if he's elected attorney general, his priorities will be accessibility, transparency and accountability. He cited his support of sunshine laws and his communication approach to the Olivia Lone Bear case.
Lone Bear disappeared on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in 2017. Her body was found in 2018 in a submerged truck in Lake Sakakawea near New Town. Wrigley and an FBI agent met with the Lone Bear family in 2019 to brief them on the investigation's status. Family members had expressed frustration with the case.
"I wanted to change course on that ... We're not looking for awards by this, by the way. This is the way public officials should approach things," Wrigley said.
He also believes he could help bridge fissures in North Dakota's supermajority Republican Party, and said he would work with Democrats.
"If I'm elected, six months into office, I feel very confident that Democrats will recognize they have an attorney general ... with whom they can consult in their office and in their legislative work and everything else, and who is not there to undermine their work just because we are of different parties," Wrigley said.
He said his attorney general bid is not a springboard for a gubernatorial campaign in 2024.
"I'm firmly committed to this race, and if elected, firmly committed to four years of what will be very energetic service," he said.
Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.