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Heitkamp, Cramer spar on issues in first debate after Democratic incumbent apologizes for newspaper ad

Medenwald chooses ND House run rather than petition drive to change state's Sunday 'blue law'

North Dakota candidates, from left, Rep. Pamela Anderson, House, Paula Thomas, Senate, and Bradon Medenwald, House, announce their campaigns Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, at Simply Made Apps, Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service

FARGO — An advocate for ending North Dakota's Sunday closing blue law is switching strategies to get to his goal.

Brandon Medenwald, who spearheaded a petition drive for an initiative measure to end restrictions on Sunday business hours, says the petitions have been shelved. Instead, he will focus on getting elected to the state House as a Democrat.

He joined two other candidates in officially announcing Wednesday, Jan. 31, that they will seek the Democratic-NPL endorsements in District 41 for the House and Senate.

Paula Thomas is running for the Senate, while Rep. Pamela Anderson is seeking re-election to the House seat that she has held since 2014.

The announcement was made at Medenwald's business, Simply Made Apps, in downtown Fargo.

Medenwald said the decision doesn't mean he's giving up; he's just taking a new direction.

"At the end of the day, I'm far from giving up on this," but instead, "we are redoubling our efforts," Medenwald said.

Medenwald said the petition drive by North Dakota Open On Sundays had gathered about 4,800 of the roughly 13,000 valid signatures needed to get it on the fall ballot. To be sure that enough valid signatures were obtained, he said the goal was to actually collect 20,000.

But given the time left and a drop-off in volunteers, he said the goal couldn't be reached unless the group paid people to seek the petition signatures — something he had vowed not to do.

"Frankly, the numbers just weren't there," Medenwald said. "When we did the math, we realized it was going to be a very, very big lift."

Medenwald said getting enough votes to get the law overturned might not be hard, given the number of retirements expected in the Legislature.

Medenwald said a Sunday closing law repeal measure lost by only three votes in the Senate during the last session, 22-25, while the House approved the measure by a 48-46 vote.

The House vote represented a swing of about 17 votes in favor of repeal from just four years before, he said, indicating changing public sentiment and younger lawmakers are moving the Legislature toward appeal.

"It became increasingly obvious that we don't need to do that much" to win this in the Senate, Medenwald said.

"I'm confident that we'll be able to get it done in the next cycle," he said. "This is as nonpartisan an issue as there is."

District 41 was represented in the last legislative session by Anderson, House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, and Sen. Kyle Davison, R-Fargo.

Davison, who runs the South East Education Cooperative, has announced he will seek re-election, and Carlson has said he will do so, too.

Michelle Strinden said she plans to run for the other House seat on the Republican ticket.

Davison and Anderson have been in office since 2015, and Carlson has served since 1993.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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