Republicans square off in Bismarck Senate primary

Published: May. 17, 2022 at 6:42 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Democrats have held the District 35 state Senate seat since 2014. But after a Democratic leader announced she wouldn’t seek re-election, Republican candidates are vying for the opportunity to turn the district red.

Your News Leader sat down with both candidates, Sean Cleary and Ryan Eckroth, to discuss their campaigns.

The first topic of conversation is legislative priorities. In addition to increased government efficiency, Cleary is eyeing tax relief.

“We have a big opportunity in North Dakota with the Legacy Fund being over $8 billion, as a conservative, I’d love to see some of that come back to taxpayers in tax relief. We haven’t seen meaningful tax relief in a while,” said Cleary.

Eckroth’s biggest priority is accessibility to constituents. Beyond that...

“Fiscal responsibility and education. I think education is a hot topic right now. What are we doing in the schools? What are we doing to help our kids in schools to be participants? And getting back to the basics of reading, writing, and math,” said Eckroth.

The campaign heated up where many legislative campaigns end, at the district convention, where there was confusion about who won because neither candidate earned the 61 votes for the endorsement, but Eckroth was eventually determined to be the winner.

“It kind of turned into a little bit of a mess at the end,” said Cleary.

“It got chaotic, nobody was really taking control of the convention,” said Eckroth.

“Given the difficulty that we had, I thought it’d be best that every voter in the district had a chance to vote in the election,” said Cleary.

Eckroth has recently faced criticism for unpaid taxes to the IRS and a personal loan that wasn’t paid back, which he says was the product of two medical emergencies with his children, including one that required open-heart surgery.

“I had a hard time making payments, but I’ve made all my obligations. I set up a payment plan through the IRS, I’ve made monthly payments for several years to honor that,” said Eckroth.

As for Cleary, he’s more interested in addressing issues facing voters.

“To be honest, I’ve just been focused on running the race, introducing myself to voters, and I think that’s his responsibility to talk to voters about,” said Cleary.

The primary election is on June 14th.

The winner of the Republican primary will likely face Tracy Potter in the general election this November. Potter is running unopposed in the Democratic primary and previously held the District 35 Senate seat from 2007 to 2010.

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