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Published March 27, 2012, 11:37 AM

Candidate Sand to bypass GOP endorsement process

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — U.S. Senate candidate Duane Sand says he's bypassing the North Dakota Republican Party's endorsing convention in Bismarck this weekend and taking his campaign straight to the June primary.

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — U.S. Senate candidate Duane Sand says he's bypassing the North Dakota Republican Party's endorsing convention in Bismarck this weekend and taking his campaign straight to the June primary.

Sand said he wants to give voters a choice in the primary.

"I didn't come to this decision lightly," he said in a videotaped announcement emailed to party delegates Monday night. "I am a proud conservative and I have accepted your endorsement for Congress in the past."

Sand and Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Berg both are seeking the Senate seat held by Democrat Kent Conrad, who is not seeking re-election. Sand's decision means he and Berg likely will square off in the Republican primary for the right to face Democratic Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp.

Sand said the "party bosses" are united behind Berg because they think he's a safe choice.

"Well, I think we need to rock the boat," Sand said.

Stan Stein, chairman of the state Republican Party, criticized Sand's decision to forego the convention.

"It is disappointing to hear Duane Sand has chosen to skip the Republican convention process that has proven to be so valuable to the people of North Dakota — the same process he has received endorsement from in past races," Stein said in a statement.

Sand is not the first North Dakota candidate for Congress to announce he's skipping the traditional candidate selection process. Republican U.S. House hopeful Kevin Cramer also is taking his chances with the primary.

Cramer said he wanted to open up the "party process" and invite Republicans from across the state to participate in selecting the candidate.

Sand and Cramer have run unsuccessful campaigns for Congress in the past. Sand lost bids for the U.S. Senate in 2000 and the U.S House in 2004 and 2008. Cramer was defeated in races for U.S. House in 1996 and 1998.

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