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Voters to decide tax commissioner race

Republican candidate for state tax commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger took an early lead in his race against Democratic challenger Jason Astrup and Libertarian candidate Anthony Mangnall.

With 35 of 427 precincts reporting at 8 p.m., Rauschenberger had 58.96 percent of the votes, over Astrup's 35.73 percent and Mangnall's 5.17 percent.

Rauschenberger worked as the state's deputy tax commissioner for four years before being appointed tax commissioner last November. The University of North Dakota graduate lives in Mandan and has a bachelor's degree in accounting and a master's degree in business administration. Rauschenberger said he was seeking his first full term on the commission to help provide more property tax relief and assure that tax laws are applied fairly and equitably.

Astrup graduated from Jamestown College and the University of North Dakota School of Law. An attorney, he lives in West Fargo, and said the rising cost of living in North Dakota and the need for substantial property tax relief fueled his ambition for the tax commissioner's office.

Mangnall, the producer of the "Poker Night in America" TV show, is a Jamestown College graduate living in Fargo. Mangnall said he launched his campaign to help flesh out the Libertarian ticket.

Rauschenberger's campaign struggled to rebound in October after he took nearly a month off from the campaign and his office to seek professional treatment for alcohol abuse. A Forum Communications poll conducted during that time found most likely voters were still undecided on the race.

Rauschenberger made headlines in early September when his 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe was rolled in Mandan by Jesse Larson, 22, of Mandan. Larson was charged with DUI and reckless driving. Rauschenberger said he met Larson in alcohol treatment. A police report revealed Rauchenberger had rear-ended another vehicle with the Tahoe 6 1/2 hours prior to Larson's accident with the vehicle. He was cited for care required, which carries a $30 fine. However, the responding officer did not test for drugs or alcohol at the scene as neither appeared to be contributing factors in the accident.

Rauschenberger took an unpaid leave of absence from the tax commissioner's office to seek additional treatment for alcohol abuse a few days after the accident and returned to his post, and the campaign trail, in October.

Rauschenberger was appointed tax commissioner by Gov. Jack Dalrymple in November 2013 after serving as deputy tax commissioner for four years. Current Deputy Tax Commissioner Joe Morrissette held the reigns of the department while Rauschenberger was on unpaid leave.