Democratic state senator files paperwork for North Dakota gubernatorial bid

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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Democratic state senator in North Dakota is running for governor, a long-shot bid in the Republican-controlled state.

State Sen. Merrill Piepkorn, of Fargo, wouldn’t confirm he is running for governor, but recently filed campaign finance paperwork for a candidate committee. He did say he is planning a press conference early next month.

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“There’s a long process yet. There’s a convention. There’s an endorsement,” Piepkorn said.

Piepkorn is president of a company that produces television, movie and radio projects and live events. He was first elected in 2016 to the North Dakota Senate, where Democrats hold four of 47 seats.

Democrat and security guard Travis Hipsher, of Neche, also is running for governor. North Dakota’s Democratic-NPL Party will endorse a gubernatorial ticket next month at the party convention in Fargo.

A Democrat last won the governor’s office in 1988. The party hasn’t won a statewide office since Heidi Heitkamp’s U.S. Senate victory in 2012; she lost reelection in 2018.

Republican Gov. Doug Burgum is not seeking a third term. Republican Rep. Kelly Armstrong, the state’s single U.S. House member, and Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller are competing in the GOP primary for the party’s nomination for November. Burgum has endorsed Miller, whom he named to replace former Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford in December 2022.

Independent Michael Coachman, an Air Force veteran of Larimore, also is running.

Term limits, passed by voters in 2022, mean no future governor can be elected more than twice, though Burgum could have sought a third and even fourth term.

The next governor will take office in mid-December, weeks before the biennial Legislature convenes.

The governor is elected on a joint ticket with a lieutenant governor, but so far only Coachman has named a running mate.

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