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District 29 candidates outline priorities

Voters will decide District 29 races for the state Senate and House of Representatives.

early voting set up from 103118.jpg
Area residents will soon be able to vote early for the upcoming election at the Stutsman County Courthouse. Early voting begins Oct. 31 in Stutsman County.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun file photo
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JAMESTOWN – Voters will decide the District 29 races for the state Senate and House of Representatives when they decide between the Republican incumbents and the Democratic candidates who also have previous experience serving in the Legislature.

Democrat Ben Vig will challenge Sen. Terry Wanzek, R-Jamestown, for the lone Senate seat in District 29. Democrat Charles Linderman will try to steal one of the two House seats in District 29 from Reps. Craig Headland, R-Montpelier, and Don Vigesaa, R-Cooperstown.

Vig, of Sharon, North Dakota, previously served in the House of Representatives during the 2007 and 2009 sessions. Linderman, of Carrington, North Dakota, served in the House of Representatives during the sessions in 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1991.

The District 29 candidates recently outlined their priorities and why voters should elect them.

Senate

Wanzek said he has experience and lots of knowledge about how the Legislature works. He said he’s always felt he’s a reasonable person who tries to use his common sense to make decisions.

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“I’m willing to listen, willing to work hard and learn to try to understand everybody’s position, even try to understand those who I am not in agreement with,” he said.

Terry Wanzek
Sen. Terry Wanzek, R-Jamestown

Being a vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he anticipates being in the same position or possibly being the chair of the committee.

Vig previously served on the House Agriculture, Judiciary and Finance and Taxation committees during his time in the Legislature and wants to serve his constituents again.

He said his No. 1 priority is funding the state’s education system. He said the state has been funding K-12 education at 70% for about 10 to 12 years.

“That funding formula at 70%, we are still seeing our mill levies maxed out for property taxes in some of these rural schools,” he said. “If we had state funding levels at 85%, I think we can alleviate that and then still have local participation at 15% for mill levies.”

Vig said another discussion that needs to be held is how the Legacy Fund can be used to fund public education and invest in North Dakotans.

Vig’s next two priorities include increasing salaries of public employees and investing in the state’s infrastructure. He said the Legislature usually provides the salary increase for public employees.

Ben Vig.jpg
Ben Vig
Contributed / Ben Vig

“We always need to be looking out for and protecting our public employees because that’s who’s taking care of our kids and that’s who’s taking care of our public infrastructure,” he said

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He said the state needs to invest in public roads and infrastructure.

“It seems like we are always putting a sealant on some of our rural highways and then the next year, they will be bumpy again,” he said. “So it’s how can we keep working and having good roads, good waterways and good infrastructure across our state.”

Wanzek said his No. 1 issue is managing the state’s finances in an effective and efficient manner to ensure the state’s needs are taken care of and the resources are used wisely. He said he always remembers his grandfather who lived through the Great Depression in the 1930s and almost lost his farm.

“I remember him saying, ‘We didn’t get in trouble in the 30s. We got into trouble in the 20s when things were good,’” he said. “So you have to be even more disciplined when times are good in making wise choices so you are prepared if things ever go south again.”

His other two priorities include economic development and improving the state’s infrastructure. He said he is working with other legislators to get a fertilizer plant built in North Dakota. He said the fertilizer prices and input costs for farmers have increased dramatically because fertilizer is purchased from other countries.

“We have all the natural gas from the oil exploration and the state is willing to pay for a natural gas pipeline to come to the east,” he said. “It just makes sense. We have all of this natural gas which can be made into fertilizer and we have a huge agriculture economy that demands a lot of fertilizer so why aren’t we making it in our own backyard?”

He also said he will work hard to find ways to expand tourism and help get the Bison World project off the ground and running. He said a lot of work has been put into the planning of Bison World – a cultural and theme park that would be located on land utilized as pasture for the National Buffalo Museum herd in southwest Jamestown.

“It’s time to talk about how we get it done,” he said.

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House of Representatives

Vigesaa said his leadership experience serving as chair of the House Appropriations Committee during the last two legislative sessions and being assistant majority leader for 10 years will serve him and his constituents well as he will be involved in the big decisions in the Legislature.

Don Vigesaa
Rep. Don Vigesaa, R-Cooperstown
Contributed / Don Vigesaa

He said his top three priorities are spending excess revenue wisely, helping with behavior health initiatives and tackling the child care and workforce issues. With the additional revenue in the state, he said the Legislature needs to be “very judicious” with the money.

“There’s a lot of proposals that have already been floated as far as tax work with property tax and also income tax and I just think that setting the proper priorities with the funds we have is going to be probably my main focus,” he said. “ ... Prioritization is going to be very important. We will have some opportunities to do some things that we normally wouldn’t because of our funding.” 

He said the Legislature needs to take a closer look at some behavioral health initiatives. He also said many employers are looking for work and part of the problem is the state’s child care capabilities that might need some assistance.

Headland said he is part of the legislative leadership team as he serves as the chair of the House Finance and Taxation Committee. He said he also serves on the House Agriculture Committee.

“I’ve got a lot of experience, and I am knowledgeable on pretty much everything in regards to the state,” he said.

Rep. Craig Headland, R-Montpelier
Rep. Craig Headland, R-Montpelier

Headland said his top priority is making sure the Legislature takes care of North Dakota citizens with some tax relief because of the state’s excess revenue.

“Since we got a nice surplus, it just seems appropriate to give some of it back,” he said. “I’m kind of leading the charge on tax relief. I think that’s important and something that the people certainly deserve some relief in that regard.”

Gov. Doug Burgum and other officials announced a plan in August to save state taxpayers an estimated $250 million annually by switching to a single flat rate that would eliminate the individual state income tax for almost 60% of taxpayers, Patrick Springer with Forum News Service reported. The plan would eliminate the state’s individual income tax for taxpayers whose adjusted gross income is $54,725 or less for single filers or $95,000 or less for married couples filing jointly. If approved by the Legislature, the tax relief plan would take effect for the 2023 tax year.

Headland said Bison World needs to be secured and is also one of his top priorities.

“I think after the harvest when both Sen. Wanzek and I have more time, we intend on sitting down with some of the local leaders and try to come up with a real plan to take to the Legislature,” he said.

Other priorities for Headland include securing adequate funding for roads and behavioral health initiatives.

Linderman said he has experience serving in the Legislature and he can represent District 29 better than those who are serving now.

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Charles Linderman
Charles Linderman

“I know a senator and one of our representatives sponsored legislation to allow corporations to buy farmland, and I would oppose that,” he said. “Rep. Headland wants to get rid of state income tax. My philosophy would be if we do have money for tax breaks I would prefer to do something like reducing the sales tax because that would help everybody, not just rich people that pay a lot of income tax.”

Linderman said he will do everything he can to improve the public education system in the state. He said he would oppose using public funds for private schools.

“I think we should do everything we can to make our public schools strong and healthy because they are one of the essentials for democracy,” he said.

He said the tax system needs to be fair to everybody. He said the governor’s proposal to reduce the income tax is the wrong way to do it.

“We need a balanced tax system. We need income, sales and property tax,” he said. “I think if we want to ease up on some of those taxes, we could start with something like property taxes, the one most people complain about. Then sales tax, I think that’s always a good tax break if we can.”

He said he will do everything to help keep the economy in the state strong and healthy.

“We depend on extracting industries like agriculture, oil and coal,” he said. “We need to do everything we can to make the environment work for agriculture and energy.”

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Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 31

Voters who are ready to cast their ballots before the Nov. 8 general election can start with early voting beginning Monday, Oct. 31, at the Stutsman County Courthouse in Jamestown.

The polls for early voting are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Oct. 31 through Nov. 4. The polls are open during the noon lunch hour.

Voters will cast their ballots in Stutsman County on Nov. 8 at the Jamestown Civic Center and the American Legion in Medina, which is only for voters from precinct 472910.

To vote in North Dakota, individuals must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old, a legal North Dakota resident and a resident in the precinct for 30 days prior to the election.

Individuals who vote during early voting or at the vote centers at the Jamestown Civic Center or American Legion in Medina on Nov. 8 must provide a valid North Dakota driver’s license or a non-driver’s ID card, a tribal government-issued ID card or a long-term care ID certificate. If an individual’s acceptable form of identification does not include a North Dakota residential address or date of birth or the address is not current, the individual may supplement the ID with a current utility bill, a current bank statement, a check or a document issued by a federal, state, local or tribal government or a paycheck.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, Stutsman County has sent out 724 absentee ballots and 486 have been returned, said Jessica Alonge, Stutsman County auditor/chief operating officer.

The last day to drop off absentee ballots is Nov. 7. Absentee ballots sent through the mail must be postmarked by Nov. 7.

Individuals voting by absentee ballot must provide a valid North Dakota driver’s license or a non-driver’s ID card, a tribal government-issued ID card, long-term care ID certificate, passport or military ID. Individuals with a disability that prevents them from traveling away from home to obtain an acceptable form of identification may use an attester who must provide his or her name, a North Dakota driver’s license or a non-driver’s ID card, a tribal identification number and sign the absentee ballot application form to attest to the applicant’s North Dakota residency and voting eligibility.

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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