Cleary advances in Bismarck-area state Senate race | Govt-and-politics

Republican voters in Bismarck on Tuesday chose a mixture of incumbents and newcomers to advance to November’s general election for the Legislature.

The races are a few of an unusual number of intraparty challenges statewide for North Dakota’s dominant GOP. Many Republicans will face no Democrats in November.

Some intraparty races are between incumbents — lawmakers who have to beat colleagues to keep a seat.

Other GOP challenges involve longtime incumbents fending off newcomers, some of whom won the party’s endorsement over the officeholders, who had to petition to make the primary ballot. 

District 35 Senate

District 35 Republicans have nominated Sean Cleary for Senate.

With all precincts fully reporting as of 9 p.m. Tuesday, Cleary had 70% of the vote to challenger Ryan Eckroth’s 30%.

Cleary is a former staffer for Gov. Doug Burgum and U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and now works in project management and grant writing for the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.

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Eckroth was the station manager for Delta and United Airlines at the Bismarck Airport for 10 years until he left last year to complete his bachelor’s degree in business management from Colorado Technical University. He is completing his master’s in business management from CTU, from which he also has an associate’s degree in marketing. 

District 35 Republicans in February endorsed Eckroth, whose past financial troubles surfaced in the campaign.

Cleary will face incumbent Sen. Tracy Potter, D-Bismarck, in November.

Cleary said he’s “just really grateful to everyone who supported my campaign and everyone who voted in this primary election, and I look forward to earning the trust of voters throughout the district in the general election.” 

Former Sen. Erin Oban, D-Bismarck, resigned in March after President Joe Biden appointed her as state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development agency. She had earlier chosen not to seek reelection to the Legislature this year due to what she said was the divisive nature of politics.

District 35 Democrats in March appointed Potter to fill the seat, which he held from 2006-10. Potter was already running for Oban’s seat when he was appointed. He faced no opposition in the Democratic-NPL primary Tuesday.

District 7 House

District 7 Republicans have nominated incumbent Rep. Jason Dockter and Matt Heilman for House. They won’t face Democrats in the November general election.

With all precincts fully reporting as of 9:15 p.m. Tuesday, Dockter had 37%, Heilman had 35% and Retha Mattern had 28%.

Dockter is a small business owner first elected in 2012. Heilman recently graduated from Bismarck State College. Mattern is BSC’s director of admissions.

District 7 Republicans in February endorsed Dockter and Heilman for House. There are no Democratic-NPL candidates.

Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, did not seek reelection.

District 47 House

District 47 Republicans have nominated incumbent Rep. Lawrence Klemin and Mike Motschenbacher for state House. They won’t face Democrats in November.

With all precincts fully reporting as of 9:15 p.m. Tuesday, Klemin had 36% of the vote and Motschenbacher had 35%. Challengers Kevin Strege had 21% and Dean Summers had 8%.

Klemin is an attorney first elected in 1998 to the House. Motschenbacher is executive director of the North Dakota Gaming Alliance. Strege is a longtime banker. Summers is a retired salesman. 

Longtime Rep. George Keiser, R-Bismarck, died Dec. 22 at age 75 after battling Lou Gehrig’s disease. The party in January named Robb Eckert to fill out the remaining months of Keiser’s term. Eckert is not running.

District 47 Republicans in February endorsed Klemin and Motschenbacher for House.

Republicans control the House of Representatives 80-14 and the Senate 40-7. 

Ninety-eight seats in the Legislature are on the ballot this year, more than is usual due to decennial redistricting. 

Three of four legislative leaders and a top budget writer are not seeking reelection, meaning new hands will guide the Legislature next year.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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