Dem primary heating up

Published: Jun. 1, 2020 at 7:19 PM CDT
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North Dakota Democrats are mailing in their choice for a candidate to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong.

One of the candidates is pretty new to politics, while the other has been around for a while.

Young vs. old. With the party or against the party.

No matter how you stack it, the candidates for the Democratic nomination race for the U.S. House is a tale of two very different candidates.

While the 26-year-old Minot native Zach Raknerud doesn't have a long political resume, his exposure has increased over the years.Raknerud ran for the State House in 2018, but lost decisively.

"I've looked across the country and the economy over the past 30 years particularly, and I've seen a picture that really shows that Congress doesn't have the priorities of working-class families top of mind,” Raknerud said.

Roland Riemers of Grand Forks is a longtime Libertarian, also has campaign experience with Democrats, even winning the 1996 Presidential Primary for the Democrats after then-President Bill Clinton failed to make it on the ballot.

"The Democrats are used to voting for me. I have no problems working with Democrats. As far as that goes, I know a lot of the good Republicans who are also supporting me,” Riemers said.

In recent years, Raknerud's increased his social activism including participation in the George Floyd demonstration in Bismarck.

"We gotta invest in these communities. We have to stop the disparities in our criminal justice system that we see today. We gotta see that change by doing it ourselves. And our current representative for North Dakota is not doing that. He's not even talking about this situation and it's wrong,” Raknerud said, surrounded by protestors.

Riemers also took part in a protest this year, but a different political flavor.

He spoke at the Open Now rally in April, which called for an end to the governor's Executive Orders closing businesses.

His participation earned him backlash within his own party; the party going as far as to condemn his actions.

Riemers said it's not a formal stance from the party.

"It's up to the Democratic voters of North Dakota to decide now. If they think I was wrong, then they'll naturally not vote for me. If they think I was right, then they will vote for me,” Riemers said.

In April, Raknerud was endorsed by the Democratic party during their virtual convention. However, Riemers said he would stay in the race.

And the bad blood may continue after the primary is done. Raknerud said that he would abstain from the race if Riemers wins the nominations. However, Riemers said he likely would support the Democratic House candidate, but would campaign for the Libertarian Presidential candidate.