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North Dakota

Backers of property tax, election reform measures shooting for November ballot

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Backers of property tax, election reform measures shooting for November ballot


BISMARCK — Only one statewide measure has a chance to be on the June 11 ballot in North Dakota but supporters of two others — one on property tax reform and another on election reform — are working toward being on the November ballot.

A committee behind a proposed measure that will put an age limit on members of Congress from North Dakota was the only one to meet a Monday deadline to get on the June ballot. The Secretary of State’s Office has 35 days to review the signatures and determine if there are enough valid signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

Both of the other petitions that are still circulating need 31,164 verified signatures.

Backers of the property tax reform measure, which bans taxes based on the assessed value of a property, have a deadline of June 29.

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The election reform measure, which requires using paper ballots to be hand counted, has a deadline of July 8.

Lydia Gessele is the chair of the sponsoring committee of the Election Integrity Act.

The measure would make several significant changes to North Dakota elections, including:

  • No early voting or voting by mail, except for absentee ballots.
  • All precincts would need to be open on Election Day.
  • It would become more difficult for the Legislature to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Each house would have to approve the amendment with a two-thirds majority vote instead of a simple majority.

Gessele told the North Dakota Monitor the sponsoring committee has collected about 8,700 signatures. She said the figure is likely higher because the petitions being mailed in by those collecting signatures have sometimes taken a week to arrive.

The group also has held two classes on how a hand-counted paper-ballot election would work.

Gessele said they have been working with people from counties in Missouri that have held votes using paper ballots. She said another class is planned for Bismarck in March. People interested in the class can email Gessele at Lydiar.gessele@protonmail.com.

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Barb Headrick, president of the North Dakota League of Women Voters, said the group has not taken an official position on the proposed measure but said elections workers in the state have kept elections fair.

“We have no major concerns about integrity issues,” Headrick said.

Former legislator Rick Becker is leading the sponsoring committee called End Unfair Property Tax.

He said the group was nearing about 20,000 signatures as of Monday.

He said he is encouraged that there has been more debate about the topic recently and said his group would welcome opportunities to explain the thinking behind the reforms.

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“I think we’re getting a little bit more dialogue going with the opposition,” Becker said.

Petitions on the measure that would set an age limit of 80 on North Dakota’s congressional delegation were delivered to the Secretary of State’s Office on Friday.

Voters will see at least three measures on the November ballot: One would remove some outdated language about state institutions; another would make some changes to how citizen-initiated measures get on the ballot; and a third would make changes to how Legacy Fund money can be spent. Those measures originated in the Legislature.

This story was originally published on NorthDakotaMonitor.com

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North Dakota

Fargo North/South Spruins win 3rd straight North Dakota girls hockey state championship

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Fargo North/South Spruins win 3rd straight North Dakota girls hockey state championship


FARGO — The Fargo North/South Spruins have won the North Dakota girls hockey state tournament championship.

Second-seeded North-South topped eighth-seeded Bismarck Century 5-1 in the title game at Scheels Arena on Saturday.

Spruins goals came from Leah Hoffman, Ainsley Ness, Olivia Kalbus, Emma Burris and Kate McComb. McComb had two assists in the contest.

North/South outshot the Patriots 30-13 in the game. Spruins goalie Alyssa Jacobsen recorded the win in net with 12 saves. Century netminder Ellie Horner stopped 26 shots.

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NDHSSA all-tournament team

  • F Ashlyn Abrahamson, Devils Lake
  • F Brenna Curl, Bismarck Century
  • F Avery Matt, Bismarck Century
  • F Kate McComb, Fargo North/South
  • D Kenleigh Fischer, Fargo North/South
  • G Alyssa Jacobson, Fargo North/South
  • MVP: McComb, Fargo North/South
  • Maggie Seeley, WF United is NDHSCA-POWERade Senior Athlete of the Year
  • NDHSCA-SUBWAY Coach of the Year is Pat Johnson, West Fargo United

This story will be updated.

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Ryan Spitza joined The Forum in December 2021 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Marquette, Mich., a city of 20,000 on the southern shore of Lake Superior. He majored in multimedia journalism and minored in public relations at Northern Michigan University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in May 2019. While attending college, Spitza gained real-world experience covering high school and college athletics for both The Mining Journal and The North Wind.

Spitza can be reached at 701-451-5613 or rspitza@forumcomm.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryspitza.





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North Dakota

Franek provides example for other North Dakota wrestlers to follow

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Franek provides example for other North Dakota wrestlers to follow


Iowa Hawkeye’s Jared Franek wrestles Columbia Lion’s Jaden Le in a 157 pound match at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY – University of Iowa’s Jared Franek has said representation matters.

But, growing up in Harwood, N.D., and attending West Fargo High School, Franek didn’t have many examples of wrestlers blazing a trail from his area to the NCAA Division I level. He understands the impact he could have, filling that role for young wrestlers, especially from his home state.

“It’s always been super important for me,” Franek said during the team’s weekly media availability Tuesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “Bigger than wins and losses is inspiring the next generation and trying to live the right lifestyle. Be a good example on and off the mat.”

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Franek has produced a successful college career as a three-time NCAA qualifier and an All-American. He transferred to Iowa this season and has been a fixture in the top five of national rankings at 157-pounds.

No. 5 Franek will close the regular season when No. 4 Iowa faces No. 2 Oklahoma State Sunday at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla.

“Everyone of us has a good match, a big match,” said Franek, who is expected to wrestle No. 10 Teague Travis. “I’m excited. Nothing really changes in the approach besides being ready and continuing to make those little improvements and get ready for March.”

North Dakota hosts one of the nation’s top age-level freestyle and Greco-Roman tournaments – Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D. The state doesn’t churn out a lot of NCAA D-I talent.

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Franek was born after the storied competitive careers of Terry and Troy Steiner, who were from Bismarck, N.D. Terry was a three-time All-American and 1993 NCAA champion for the Hawkeyes and legendary coach Dan Gable. His twin brother, Troy, was a four-time All-American, two-time national finalist and 1992 NCAA champion.

Despite being before his time, Franek was exposed to their careers and accomplishments. He was inspired to be like them and was influenced by stories of their work ethic.

“I heard a lot of stories about them when I was younger,” Franek said. “They didn’t know much about wrestling and their first few matches they got beat up. It’s kind of crazy what hard work and dedication did for them.”

Former Minnesota three-time All-American and Big Ten Conference finalist Scott Schiller was much closer to his home and his age. Schiller also attended West Fargo and they were family friends.

“Scott Schiller was a really good example on and off the mat for me,” Franek said. “My dad grew up with his dad, so I got to know him pretty well. He was a class act on and off the mat. A lot of the way he approached the sport is the way he did it.

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“Those were some good role models for me, growing up.”

Franek has produced a successful college career as well. He reached the round of 12 at two straight NCAA Championships and made placed fourth last year for North Dakota State.

As he contends for a national title and a second All-American finish, he wants to be a positive influence that might make a difference in an aspiring athlete. Franek has encouraged wrestlers at various camps and clinics and why he obliges young fans with autographs and pictures.

Those moments could propel a younger wrestler toward success, regardless of whether they reside in Iowa, North Dakota or elsewhere.

“Taking the time out to do that stuff is really important because at one point we were all that kid, wanting to achieve those goals and who knows what impact you might have,” Franek said. “That might be just enough to get a kid into it and they might have a great career out of it.”

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Franek owns a 19-3 record, giving him 111 career victories. He immediately slid into the Hawkeyes lineup, climbing as high as No. 2 in the national rankings.

Franek has demonstrated stinginess in matches, allowing just 3.04 points per match. He is coming off a 17-point outburst in a technical fall over Wisconsin’s Luke Mechler last Sunday.

“It was big,” Franek said. “That’s how we want to wrestle. That’s how the guys on the team want to wrestle. Score points and dominate. It was good to get that flow back a little bit. I had a couple matches where I wasn’t scoring much, so get those points on the board and look to keep building that momentum.”

Iowa Coach Tom Brands said he possesses a strong “wrestling IQ” that likely blossomed under his dad, Shawn, a wrestling coach. Brands said Franek is not content or complacent, looking to consistently improve.

“I know that he knows there’s work to do,” Brands said. “That’s always good. He doesn’t rest. He’s ambitious. He’s energetic. He loves a challenge. He has thick skin.

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“I wouldn’t say he’s never satisfied, but he knows that there’s always work to do.”

Franek described wrestling as a sport that can’t be perfected. Some aspect can always be tweaked, evolved and bettered. He was raised with that mentality, which is enhanced by a quest to be the best.

“I was always climbing for the next guy,” Franek said. “I was never the best at any age group. For me, that’s been a big motivation.

“I think there’s a lot left in my wrestling game to piece together here before March. I’m looking to keep improving on that and peak when it’s time.”

Comments: kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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North Dakota

Candidates not seeking Republican endorsement bad for party long-term, NDGOP chair says

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Candidates not seeking Republican endorsement bad for party long-term, NDGOP chair says


GRAND FORKS — North Dakota Republican Party Chairwoman Sandi Sanford said the number of candidates and the quality of candidates running for North Dakota’s U.S. House seat is good for the state, although she believes the trend of bypassing the Republican endorsement isn’t good for the party.

“This is incredibly exciting for North Dakotans,” Sanford said. “I love the fact that people are stepping forward and I’m grateful to have so many candidates for the state of North Dakota to choose from.”

At present, three Republican candidates are hoping to be the party’s November candidate for the state’s sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. They include

Rick Becker

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, of Bismarck;

Tom Campbell

, of Grafton; and

Julie Fedorchak

, of Bismarck. Campbell and Fedorchak have said that they will try to get the party’s endorsement, but all three will go to the June 11 primary regardless.

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According to NDGOP’s rules, “any person who has sought the endorsement of another political party or ran as an independent for statewide office in the past six years shall be prohibited from seeking the endorsement of the North Dakota Republican Party’s state convention.”

That rule means that only Fedorchak and Campbell are eligible for the Republican endorsement, since Becker ran as an independent candidate against Sen. John Hoeven in 2022.

Overall, the trend of bypassing the endorsement process is bad for the party, according to Sanford.

“We need to give candidates a reason to seek the endorsement,” Sanford said. “For whatever reason, there’s been a shift in the party. What we’re experiencing in the state of North Dakota is not unique. … What is happening in North Dakota is happening across the nation.”

Candidates receiving party endorsement and support have made the NDGOP into the dominant force it is in North Dakota politics, Sanford said

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“This is what built a supermajority in the last 12 years,” she said. “My concern is the fact that we have a state committee that’s somewhat split, and the party wants to have good candidates, and we want to keep a supermajority.”

Sanford continued, “I think the June primary is going to be really telling for us to whether the GOP endorsement matters.”

Sanford, who recently returned from a national Republican Party meeting, said the whole party, not just in North Dakota, needs to figure out its identity.

“We need to be clear on what we stand for, what our core values are. We also need to understand that there are many people in the big Republican tent,” Sanford said. “I think we’re forgetting that as Republicans, we have different factions in the state that believe their faction is the only way and that is just not true.”

Recent history in North Dakota has shown that candidates who don’t have the party’s endorsement can still win. Now-U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer didn’t get the party’s endorsement when he won the U.S. House primary in 2012, and Gov. Doug Burgum didn’t have the party’s endorsement when he won the primary for governor in 2016.

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While the candidates may not abide by the party’s decision, in the eyes of Sanford, that decision does show how serious they are about running for office.

“There are seriously good candidates that are really having to resort to ‘you know what, I’m taking it to the primary regardless,’ and that’s sending multiple messages,” Sanford said. “It’s telling people that the GOP is just tradition, that the GOP is really nothing at all. But it is also telling us that these are serious candidates and they are not going to back down regardless of the convention or lack of endorsement.”

Voigt covers city government in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

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