New N.D. Democratic chairman electedDemocrats on Saturday elected Fargo attorney Greg Hodur as their new chairman, choosing him over former North Dakota Education Association president Max Laird in a rare contest for the job.
By: By Dale Wetzel, The Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — Democrats on Saturday elected Fargo attorney Greg Hodur as their new chairman, choosing him over former North Dakota Education Association president Max Laird in a rare contest for the job.
Members of the state Democratic Party’s policy committee, which is made up of legislative district chairmen and party officials, favored Hodur over Laird, 35-27. Hodur succeeds another Fargo attorney, Mark Schneider, as state chairman.
“My vision is to run a campaign based on issues, and one that’s going to range across the state,” Hodur said in an interview after his election.
“We need to fight for every seat in the Legislature, we need to fight for the state offices, we need to fight to hold the (U.S.) Senate seat, and we need to fight to take back the (U.S.) House seat,” he said.
After 24 years of controlling North Dakota’s congressional delegation, Democrats lost one of the state’s two U.S. Senate seats last year when incumbent Byron Dorgan retired and John Hoeven, the state’s longtime Republican governor, replaced him. In the same election, Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy, who had held the seat for 18 years, lost to Republican Rick Berg.
The delegation’s third Democrat, U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad, is stepping down next year, and Berg has already begun a campaign for the Republican endorsement to succeed him.
Wayne Sanstead, the state superintendent of public instruction, is the only Democrat among North Dakota’s statewide elected officeholders. The 76-year-old Sanstead, who was first elected in 1984, said Saturday he was undecided about whether he would run again.
North Dakota’s Democratic congressional delegation has traditionally taken a lead role in choosing the party chairman. The departures of Dorgan and Pomeroy, and Conrad’s impending retirement, left the field open. Schneider said he could not recall a previous race for the chairmanship.
Hodur, 55, grew up in Toledo, Ohio. He said he and his wife moved to Fargo about 10 years ago to be closer to her family.
He formerly worked as a Democratic congressional aide, a lobbyist for the American Hospital Association and a private attorney in Maryland. Hodur said his Fargo law practice concentrates on estate planning.
Supporters praised Hodur’s penchant for writing newspaper letters to the editor that are critical of Republicans, and his role in building a Democratic presence in District 41, a south Fargo district represented by the North Dakota House’s GOP majority leader, Al Carlson.
Democrats have not fielded a challenger for the district’s Republican senator, Tony Grindberg, for the last two elections. Carlson and the district’s other House member, Bette Grande, were unopposed in 2006, and easily defeated lone Democratic House candidate Ty Hegland last year. Hegland trailed by almost 600 votes.
“It’s that type of party building we have to do in this state, not just in (District) 41, but all across the state,” Hodur said. “I’m going to be traveling across North Dakota, to get to as many places as I can, to understand the issues so that I can help our candidates.”
Hodur’s opponent, Laird, 60, is a retired science teacher who taught in the Grand Forks school district. He now lives in Bismarck. Laird was president of the NDEA for four years and has run twice for state superintendent of public instruction.