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GOP endorses incumbents for attorney general, tax commissioner, PSC

MINOT, N.D. – With a little thunder and no surprises, North Dakota Republicans endorsed incumbents for attorney general, state tax commissioner and Public Service Commission on Saturday at the GOP State Convention here.

Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger, Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem all received the nod to represent the party on the ballot.

In one of the day’s livelier moments, Rauschenberger made his way to the convention stage with AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” blaring on the sound system and an entourage of sign-toting supporters behind him.

Rauschenberger hopes to win his first term in November after being appointed to the office last year by Gov. Jack Dalrymple. He highlighted his work with the governor and Legislature to provide $2.4 billion in income and property tax relief and said he hopes to provide more relief.

“I’m very proud of our work and I will continue to build on it,” he said.

Rauschenberger had served as deputy tax commissioner since 2009 before being appointed to replace outgoing Tax Commissioner Cory Fong as of Jan. 1. Prior to that, the Kenmare native and certified public accountant worked as an auditor for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Minneapolis and for the North Dakota Department of Commerce.

“I have never felt so good about using the word ‘qualified’ for this candidate,” Dalrymple said in introducing Rauschenberger, whose father, Ron Rauschenberger, is the governor’s chief of staff.

Ryan Rauschenberger faces a challenge in November from Democrat Jason Astrup, a Fargo attorney and Jamestown native who specializes in business law, tax law and estate planning.

Fedorchak pledged to work relentlessly in the PSC’s role of maintaining the affordability of safe, reliable power, and noted the PSC is working on developing a state-run oversight program to complement federal pipeline inspectors.

“This is an appropriate place for the state to assert ourselves” to protect the integrity of North Dakota’s landscape, she said.

Like Rauschenberger, Fedorchak also will be running for her current seat for the first time.

Dalrymple appointed Fedorchak to the PSC seat left open by Rep. Kevin Cramer in December after his election to the U.S. House of Representatives. The seat’s four-year term doesn’t expire until 2016, but state law requires appointed officeholders to run in the next general election.

Fedorchak served as former Gov. Ed Schafer’s communications director from 1995 to 2000, then started her own business, Liffrig Communications. She was U.S. Sen. John Hoeven’s state director before joining the PSC.

Fedorchak said while there are challenges associated with energy development – she noted her family in Williston struggles with them – she also remembers the “hopelessness of the not-too-distant past” when young people were leaving the state to find work.

First-term state Sen. Tyler Axness of Fargo received the Democratic-NPL endorsement to challenge Fedorchak for the two-year term.

Stenehjem won the GOP nod to seek a fifth term in office.

The Mohall native and University of North Dakota law school graduate served 24 years in the Legislature before being elected attorney general in 2000. He was re-elected in 2004, 2006, and 2010.

Stenehjem highlighted his work on pursuing sexual predators and illegal drug use and trafficking, including synthetic drugs.

“Kids lives are being saved,” he said.

Stenehjem also acknowledged concerns about increased drug use, human trafficking and prostitution associated with growth in the state’s oil patch, but he said the Legislature has responded, adding more resources for his office and officers in the field.

“We have challenges to be sure, but we need to put all these things into historical perspective because things really are going amazingly well for us in North Dakota,” he said.

Democrats last weekend endorsed Grand Forks attorney Kiara Kraus-Parr to challenge Stenehjem.

Reach Nowatzki at (701) 255-5607 or by email at