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Published May 12, 2011, 08:17 AM

Berg may make US Senate announcement next week

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Berg may announce next week whether he'll run to succeed incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad, who has said he will not seek re-election next year.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Berg may announce next week whether he'll run to succeed incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad, who has said he will not seek re-election next year.

A Berg spokeswoman, Alee Lockman, said Wednesday that Berg may be back in North Dakota as early as Friday, and that he expected to spend next week in the state doing constituent work.

The congressman's legislative director, Jonathan Casper, has taken a leave of absence from Berg's staff in Washington, D.C., to "work in the political side of things" in North Dakota, Lockman said.

She said there will be "an announcement made as early as next week" about speculation that Berg will run for the Senate.

Republican Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk has already announced a campaign for the GOP endorsement to run for the Senate next year. Kalk and U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., have said they expect Berg to run and that there will be several candidates vying for party support.

More than 80 Republican lawmakers and state officials, including Kalk's two Republican colleagues on the Public Service Commission, Kevin Cramer and Tony Clark, recently signed a letter urging Berg to run.

A North Dakota freshman House member has not run for the Senate since 1960, when newly minted Democratic Rep. Quentin Burdick defeated GOP Gov. John Davis to win the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Republican William Langer. Burdick served in the Senate until September 1992, when he died in office.

Separately, a group of North Dakota House Democrats announced they had signed a letter urging Pam Gulleson, a former state representative and assistant North Dakota House floor leader, to seek her party's support for a U.S. Senate run.

Gulleson worked as the state director for former Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., until Dorgan declined to seek re-election last year. She is now a senior adviser to the North Dakota Farmers Union, a Democratic-leaning farmers' group based in Jamestown.

Gulleson said Wednesday she had not decided whether to undertake a Senate campaign. Dorgan had urged Gulleson to run for his seat in 2010, but Gulleson declined.

She was a member of the North Dakota House for 16 years, representing a rural southeastern district. Gulleson and her husband, Bill, have three sons and a family farm and ranching operation near Rutland.

She was the House's assistant Democratic leader for three sessions, from 1997 through 2001.

"We have long admired your leadership on key issues affecting our state and your deep commitment to protecting our way of life," says the letter, which was signed by all 25 North Dakota House Democrats and Carol Siegert, a House Democratic aide and longtime party activist.

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