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District 45, 13 candidates get voice at voter forum

District 45 candidates attended a League of Women Voters Red River Valley forum on Oct. 3. Wendy Reuer/The Pioneer1 / 2
District 13 Democrat candidates Dianne Hyndman, Landis Larson and Carrie Leopold attended a League of Women Voters Red River Valley forum on Oct. 3. Wendy Reuer/The Pioneer2 / 2

Candidates for the North Dakota Legislature in districts 13 and 45 met Oct. 3 to answer questions from voters as part of a League of Women Voters Red River Valley candidate forum at West Fargo City Hall.

In District 13, which is made up of areas in northern and central West Fargo, Republican incumbent Sen. Judy Lee is challenged by Democrat Carrie Leopold.

Four are seeking the two House of Representative seats, Republican incumbent Kim Koppelman, Republican candidate Austen Schauer, and Democrat candidates Dianne Hyndman and Landis Larson.

In District 45, which includes parts of northern Fargo, West Fargo, Harwood, and Reile's Acres,

Democrats Tim Hoye and Lukas Maughan are challenging Republican incumbents Mary Johnson and Tom Kading for the two House of Representative seats.

Democrat Danielle Pinnick is challenging Republican incumbent Sen. Ron Sorvaag.

Koppelman, Lee and Schauer did not attend the forum. If candidates could not attend, they were invited by the league to write a statement to be read at the Forum. Lee said in a statement that she and Koppelman could not attend due to Legislative commitments in Bismarck.

"It is inappropriate to have the forum at a time when the only two legislators currently serving in the Senate and House cannot attend, and it is not fair to expect a new candidate to be able to respond to questions about policies with which he has had no legislative experience," Lee's said. "Incumbent office-holders are best able to explain positions and policies which

are the result of previous legislative actions."

Kading did not attend the forum and did not provide a statement.

The forum allows each candidate to provide an opening statement and take questions from the audience.

Oil taxes and budget at issue

At both forums, candidates were asked if they agreed with decreasing oil extraction tax rates.

District 13 candidates did not.

"That took out $20 million a month that was cut from education, workforce needs, " Leopold said. "This decision was also made without public hearings. I'm really not OK with that. This was a decision made without your voice. Now we're voting to increase property taxes."

Larson said the cuts went mostly to out-of-state companies and increased the need for higher property taxes.

Hyndman said the oil industry needs to be doing their fair share of taking care of lands as they take the oil out.

While most District 45 candidates said they did not support the oil extraction tax decrease, Sorvaag, who voted for it, said it has benefited the state and makes budgeting easier.

"This was a good policy; it's budgetable," Sorvaag said. "We also did it at a time there were a lot of ifs in the oil industry."

"The fact it was overturned at all is a pattern with our supermajority in the Legislature that is shirking its responsibility to the people," Pinnick said.

Johnson said she voted against the oil tax extraction bill because at the time, more revenue was expected.

District 13 candidates cover variety of topics

First-time legislative candidates Hyndman, Larson and Leopold took questions from the audience that ranged from gun control, health care and taxes to housing rights.

One audience member wanted to know if the candidates would bring back a bill to ban LGBT discrimination in housing. In 2015, the North Dakota House killed the third bill banning discrimination based on sexual orientation after similar bills in 2009 and 2013 also failed. The questioner said he has asked Koppelman the same question as he voted with most state Republicans to deny the hotly contested bills.

Larson said his sister is gay, so it's an issue close to him. "The fact we cannot support it in North Dakota is disturbing," Larson said.

Hyndman, who is a retired dietary manager and insurance professional, said she will focus on education and veterans affairs if elected.

For Larson, a factory worker employed by an agricultural business for nearly 40 years, said his experience with workforce issues and union negotiations gives him the background to fight for workers' rights in the future.

"I"m looking forward to trying to use this skill of consensus building to work with Republicans across the aisle," Larson said.

Leopold, who is a West Fargo High graduate, small-business owner and foster parent, said she will also focus on education and business as well as meeting West Fargo's needs as a growing city. Leopold said she decided to run after watching recent bills pass that did not benefit West Fargoans.

"District 13 has changed a lot over the years, and I want to be your fresh voice," Leopold said. "My opponent has been in the Legislature for more than 20 years, and I don't think she's always in tune to what people want."

Larson said he feels the biggest issue facing the Legislature now is the budget.

Hyndman said she agreed with the other candidates that the budget is one of the biggest issues and said the state should use the interest being incurred by the Legacy Fund more effectively to balance the budget.

District 45 answers ballot questions

Each of the District 45 candidates were asked their stance on the four measures that will be on the ballot Nov. 6.

Measure 1 would create an ethics committee for legislatures. Measure 2 would require proof of U.S. citizenry to vote. Measure 3 would legalize recreational marijuana use, and Measure 4 would allow special license plates for volunteer first responders.

All candidates agreed that Measure 2 seems needless in the state.

Hoye, who has worked in the technology sector for about 20 years, said he believes his experience will help move the state forward.

Hoye said he supports measures 1 and 3. "It is something that is going to be a revenue generator for our state. We can always use more funds," Hoye said.

He said he would like to research Measure 4 more before making a decision.

Johnson said she has done a "great job" for District 45 in the past four years and believes she represents the constituents as a whole.

"Lawmaking is about balance and deployment of reason," she said.

Johnson opposes Measure 1.

"I would like to know what has changed in three years and can we point out corruption in North Dakota; I haven't seen it," she said.

She said Measure 3 needs to be studied more and took no position on Measure 4.

Maughan, 21, a Moorhead State student, said he got involved to spark more involvement from younger people and would like to focus on agriculture, technology and protections for students.

Maughan said he has not heavily studied all the measures, but he supports legalizing recreational marijuana.

"I think it would bring money into the state and would help with the opioid crisis," Maughan said.

Sorvaag, R-Fargo, has lived in his district his entire life. The business owner and former Fargo parks commissioner was first elected to the state in 2010.

Sorvaag opposes measures 1 and 3. He said Measure 4 could be problematic if it costs the state too much money, he said.

"This thing is wide open; there is no control," Sorvaag said. "It's a disaster in the making."

Pinnick is a North Dakota State University alum and staff member who has served on many NDSU health and staff committees. Pinnick said she supports Measure 1 and would likely support Measure 3.

"There's a really great argument on both sides of the issue," she said.

Pinnick called for more diversity in state leadership to better serve its citizens.

"Our government and Legislature should look more like our state does," she said.

Sorvaag said he hopes to continue his work at the state level, which includes programs for those in need and a balanced budget.

"We need to keep our taxes friendly and we need to keep our regulations friendly. You can hate the oil industry, but it provides 45,000 jobs in North Dakota. You can hate the coal industry, but it provides 15,000 jobs in the state."

Wendy Reuer

Wendy reports for The Forum and West Fargo Pioneer, where she is also assistant editor. A University of Minnesota Morris graduate from North Dakota, Wendy started her career in television news and entertainment in Minnesota and at CBS in Television City, Calif. before working at newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. 

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