GRAND FORKS - Democrat Kylie Oversen and Republican incumbent Ryan Rauschenberger will face off for the state tax commissioner role this November.
The tax commissioner office oversees six divisions dealing with tax law, revenue collection and fiscal management, among others. The tax commissioner has a four-year term in North Dakota and is up for election during midterm election years.
Rauschenberger, who had previously served as deputy tax commissioner, was appointed to the position in 2014 by then-Gov. Jack Dalrymple following the departure of Cory Fong. He was then elected to the position in November 2014.
Oversen previously served as head of the Democratic Party in the state and is a former state legislator from Grand Forks. Oversen received her law degree from UND.
The commissioner's office is largely an "administrative" office, but whoever is elected to the position should also be an "advocate" for "good policy," Oversen said. She said if she is elected to the position, she would work "closely" with the Legislature and the Governor's Office to "craft good tax policy that serves the state well."
"I think the state tax commissioner plays an important role in shaping tax policy and sort of advocating for more responsible fiscal planning, and I haven't seen that kind of leadership coming from our current tax commissioner, so I stepped up to the plate," she said.
Rauschenberger said he is "continually" in contact with the governor's office and legislators about what makes good tax policy. He noted his office already is working on bills for the upcoming legislative session.
"Even though I don't have a vote in the Legislature and I don't sign the bills like the governor, I am at the table, and that's important," he said. "I believe that I have the relationships with the governor and the Legislature that are important to this office."
Rauschenberger said if he is re-elected, he wants to focus on providing good customer service to North Dakotans and will advocate to make sure the office maintains a level of funding that will ensure that taxpayer data stays secure.
In September 2017, Rauschenberger was arrested for driving under the influence, a Class B misdemeanor. A breath test indicated he had a 0.206 percent blood alcohol content, more than twice the legal limit.
Oversen said North Dakotans should "be holding our elected officials to higher standards and not just brushing off bad behavior when it happens," in regards to the incident.
Oversen has since used video of Rauschenberger's arrest in a campaign ad. Rauschenberger had told a state patrolman he had "one drink" three hours prior to his arrest. He later acknowledged he lied the patrolman.
"I think he's violating the trust of the people who put him in office when he's being dishonest about what he's dealing with and how it's affecting his ability to do his job," she said.
Rauschenberger noted he has been very open about his issues with alcohol. He said he believes Oversen's criticism of his arrest is "fair."
"I've been very open about my arrest last September and have talked very openingly about my recovery in addition to that," he said. "It's very, very important to me that I continue my efforts in recovery with both counseling and meetings."