by Jeff Olson, DakCU President/CEO
The only “unknown” heading into Tuesday’s general election in North Dakota was going to be the margin of victory in certain races, and whether the Democrats would be able to pick off a couple of seats in the newly drawn legislative districts.
What the final spread would be was much more interesting to watch than who would come out on top in the statewide races for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House seats. Even with a three-person race, Senator John Hoeven (R), came out on top with 55 percent of the vote over Katrina Christianson (D) and Dr. Rick Becker (I). Hoeven returns to the Senate for a third term.
In the Congressional race, Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R) returns to the House for his third term as he defeated former Miss America, Cara Mund, with 62 percent of the vote.
In legislative races, except for a couple of upsets, things went as expected with Republicans easily maintaining their super majority in both chambers. In fact, the Republican majority grew in both chambers when all the ballots were counted. In the Senate, they picked up three seats and now have a 43 to 4 majority. There will be 13 newly elected to the Senate; however, 2 members of the Senate are former House members.
In the House, Republicans picked three seats and now have an 83 to 11 majority. There will be 26 new faces to the House, which means 28 percent of the members will be new in the House of Representatives.
North Dakota had two hotly debated initiated measures on the ballot. Not surprising, Measure 1, passed by with a margin of 63 percent. This initiative changes the constitution to implement term limits for the legislature and the Governor. This means that there will be significant turnover in both chambers in eight years when many have exceeded the grandfathered time. Measure 2, recreational marijuana, failed by a margin of 55 percent.
Even though many legislative races were uncontested, there were several races to watch. Here is a summary of some of the key races that were competitive or perhaps were upsets.
There was one significant upset in the Senate in District 9, as Republican Kent Weston defeated longtime Senate Democrat member Richard Marcellais. Marcellais had been a four-term member of the Senate and served in the District for sixteen years. In new District 10 in the Fargo area, Democrat Ryan Braunberger won, squeaking by with just 38 votes – or just 1 percentage point! In the Devils Lake area, Republican Judy Estenson took the win. In Grand Forks, two Republicans newcomers came out on top as Jeff Barta (R) bested incumbent Democrat JoNell Bakke by 225 votes. In District 17, Jonathan Sickler was uncontested; he will take longtime Senator Ray Holmberg's post, who resigned earlier this year. Due to redistricting, Senator Larry Luick (R) and Senator Jim Dotzenrod (D) squared off in District 25 with Luick coming out top the victor. In the most expensive reported legislative race in the state, Republican Sean Cleary took out Democrat Tracy Potter. This position had been held by Erin Oban (D) who was tapped for the USDA State Director position.
Legislative redistricting also impacted a few House races as sitting legislators Cindy Beck (R), Alisa Mitskog (D) and Kathy Skroch (R) faced off with both Beck and Mitskog returning. Newcomer Republican Josh Christy defeated Ruth Buffalo (D) in the Fargo area. In District 43, (Grand Forks) Eric Murphy edged out incumbent Democrat Mary Adams. There were big upsets in the House with the newly created Districts. In District 4a Republican Terry Jones was handily defeated by Democrat Lisa Finley-DeVille, and in District 9b, Donna Henderson (R) took down longstanding Democrat legislator Marvin Nelson.
The newly elected legislators will be in “Capital City” next week to caucus and elect their leaders for the upcoming session which opens January 3, 2023.
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