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Taylor considering run for ag commissioner

BISMARCK – A cattle rancher and former state senator who made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2012 is considering a run for state agriculture commissioner, a job currently held by a Republican who faces a challenge for the GOP endorsement.

Democrat Ryan Taylor of Towner said in December that he wouldn’t be seeking statewide office this year, but he said Tuesday he’s “definitely” mulling a run for agriculture commissioner.

“We’ve obviously had a lot of people encourage me to make the run,” he said.

Taylor said the encouragement has escalated since Republican Judy Estenson of Warwick announced Feb. 4 that she plans to challenge current Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring for the GOP endorsement at the party’s state convention April 4-6 in Minot.

The North Dakota Farm Bureau also came out in support of Estenson at that time, saying it had lost confidence in Goehring, in part because of policy differences and complaints about what Goehring has acknowledged were “politically incorrect” actions and statements toward female staffers.

However, Taylor said the GOP upheaval wasn’t his primary reason for reconsidering a run for office.

“If I make the decision, it’s always going to be about North Dakota and the issues,” he said.

He said his main concern is how the agriculture commissioner is representing farmers on the three-member Industrial Commission, which also includes the governor and attorney general.

“You continue to see the Industrial Commission’s management of the oil boom and kind of wonder where is agriculture’s voice?” he said.

A fourth-generation rancher, Taylor was first elected to the state Senate in 2002. He served until 2012, when he lost the gubernatorial race to Gov. Jack Dalrymple, receiving 34.3 percent of the vote.

Taylor, 43, currently is in the middle of a two-year Bush Fellowship that began last May, but he said he would be able to take a leave of absence from the fellowship to run for office.

He said he expects to make his decision within the next few weeks, before the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party’s state convention on March 28-30 in Fargo.

Taylor and his wife, Nikki, have three children ages 9, 7 and 5. The family runs a cow-calf operation near Towner.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.