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Published September 22, 2011, 09:36 AM

Former legislator, Dorgan aide to run for US House

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Pam Gulleson, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan who has been promoted as a Democratic Senate candidate herself, said Thursday she would seek party support to run for the U.S. House instead.

By: DALE WETZEL, Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Pam Gulleson, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan who has been promoted as a Democratic Senate candidate herself, said Thursday she would seek party support to run for the U.S. House instead.

She is the first declared Democratic candidate for any statewide office next year. She is seeking the party endorsement to run for the seat now held by GOP Rep. Rick Berg, who is running for the Senate.

Gulleson began her campaign Thursday night in her hometown of Rutland, a Sargent County community in North Dakota's southeastern corner. Her family's farming operation raises corn, soybeans and alfalfa, and operates a cattle feedlot.

Gulleson now works as a North Dakota Farmers Union executive and adviser to the group's president, Robert Carlson. She was Dorgan's state director for nine years before the longtime Democratic senator stood down in 2010.

The 53-year-old Gulleson served for 16 years in the North Dakota House, including a stint as the assistant Democratic floor leader. She did not seek re-election in 2008.

After 24 years of holding all three of North Dakota's seats in Congress, Democrats are trying to stave off the possibility of losing all three.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., plans to leave office next year, and no Democrat has announced a campaign to succeed him. North Dakota Democratic U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy joined Dorgan on the sidelines last year when he was defeated by Berg for re-election.

Berg is now seeking the GOP endorsement to run for the Senate. Republican Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk is seeking GOP support for a U.S. House bid, and challengers are expected.

Gulleson has been mulling a U.S. Senate run, and a group of North Dakota Democratic state lawmakers signed a letter in February imploring her to join the race. She decided, however, that she would be more comfortable with a House campaign, Gulleson said.

"When you make these decisions, absolutely, you look at everything," Gulleson said. "I made the decision based on having been a legislator, having served in the House, I felt like (a U.S. House race) would be a good fit."

In a statement Thursday announcing the start of her campaign, Gulleson did not mention her party affiliation, saying she was running "to give North Dakota families an independent voice" in the U.S. House.

"I will work to ensure that North Dakotans can count on strong, independent leadership that puts job creation and common sense before partisan tongue-lashing and insider politics," she said.

Joanna Burgos, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, issued a statement saying Gulleson had "supported tax increases and regulations that made life more expensive for North Dakota's middle-class families and small businesses."

"If Gulleson were to bring her record to Washington, North Dakotans would unfortunately see a bad economy get worse," the statement said.

Gulleson said she was proud of her voting record in the North Dakota Legislature and that she would work across party lines in Congress to resolve the nation's difficulties.

"It's a sad statement about America when we're facing probably our most challenging times ever, and when we look at Congress, they can't sit around a table and come up with solutions to the big problems, like deficit reduction and jobs," Gulleson said.

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