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Three GOP House candidates vie for support at forum before state convention

Sen. Tom Campbell, from left, former North Dakota State University linebacker Paul Schaffner and Sen. Kelly Armstrong at a GOP candidate forum at Fargo's Holiday Inn Monday, April 2. Kim Hyatt/ The Forum

FARGO — Ahead of the state GOP convention this weekend, around 70 people came together Monday, April 2, for a candidate forum featuring three Republicans seeking the endorsement for the state's sole U.S. House seat.

In attendance were North Dakota state senators Kelly Armstrong and Tom Campbell along with former North Dakota State University linebacker Paul Schaffner. Invited but not in attendance were Tiffany Abenroth and DuWayne Hendrickson.

The senators and Schaffner are seeking the endorsement of the state's GOP delegates during the state convention in Grand Forks Friday, April 6 through Sunday, April 8.

Armstrong and Schaffner said they would not run if they didn't receive the party's endorsement over the weekend. However, Campbell said he plans on winning at the convention and would run regardless of receiving the party's official nod.

Moderator and NDSU climatologist Daryl Ritchison asked a series of questions for the three candidates on behalf of the evening's hosting organization, the Cass County United Republican Committee.

Answers didn't stray far from the Republican Party's platform. Candidates all echoed similar goals of tightening border security, defunding Planned Parenthood and rolling back federal regulations.

Looking at the new farm bill, candidates said they wanted to create more certainty for farmers and didn't agree with President Donald Trump drastically cutting farm subsidies and program spending.

On the topic of the recently passed $1.3 trillion omnibus bill, all candidates indicated they would not have voted in favor of more spending without further discussion considering the bill's passage in the 11th hour.

Ritchison said a number of questions from the audience revolved around the same topic and rather than pose a similar question, he said two words to the candidates: 2nd Amendment.

Campbell, Armstrong and Schaffner all expressed their pro-gun views and said responsible gun ownership is a way of life in North Dakota.

Asked how they would make their voice heard being only one representative among 434 others, Schaffner said he would be "thoughtful, direct and honest." Armstrong said he would be a "tireless advocate and hard worker" and Campbell said he would rely on his experience and align with others to get things done.

Whoever seals the GOP endorsement after this weekend will be up against Democrat and former state Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider, who earned his party's endorsement Saturday, March 17.

Kim Hyatt

Kim Hyatt is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. She started her newspaper career at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts and education. In 2016, she received Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award and later that year she joined The Forum newsroom.

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