UPDATED BISMARCK–North Dakota Democrats are encouraging a former state legislator and staffer of Sen. Byron Dorgan to enter the 2012 U.S. Senate race.
A letter signed by Democratic members of the North Dakota House of Representatives encourages former Rep. Pam Gulleson, D-Rutland, to enter the race.
Gulleson, who worked for Dorgan from 2002 to 2010 as state director and chief of staff, said Wednesday that it was an honor for her peers to make the request.
â€œIâ€™m giving it full consideration. I have not made a decision at this point,â€ she said. â€œItâ€™s one that I hope to make sooner rather than later.â€
Gulleson said her work as a state legislator, farmer and Dorgan staffer has given her a good overview of the issues.
â€œIâ€™ve been in every community in North Dakota in one capacity or the other,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™ve spent a lot of time working on, I think, some of the really critical issues facing the state, including energy development, renewable energy and water issues.â€
Gulleson grew up on a dairy farm near Oakes, N.D. She graduated from North Dakota State University and spent years working as a licensed nutritionist. She served in the state Legislature from 1992 to 2008.
She and her husband, Bill, have three sons who are involved in the family farming business.
Dorgan said Wednesday that he would â€œcertainly want to campaign for herâ€ if Gulleson entered the race.
â€œSheâ€™s an extraordinary talent, I think,â€ he said. â€œI think she would make a great senator for North Dakota. I hope she does run.â€
Dorgan said Gulleson is likeable, a quick study and tenacious about making sure things get done and get done right.
â€œSheâ€™d be a tremendous asset for our state if she decides to run for the Senate,â€ he said. â€œShe knows North Dakota like the back of her hand because sheâ€™s traveled every bit of it working in my state office.â€
Conrad said he also supports Gulleson.
â€œPam Gulleson would be an outstanding candidate and exceptional United States senator,â€ he said in a statement. â€œShe would be a strong voice for North Dakota in the United States Senate.â€
Rep. Shirley Meyer, D-Dickinson, said it would be â€œhistory making, precedent setting and long overdueâ€ for a woman to represent North Dakota in the U.S. Senate.
The only woman to representÂ the stateÂ in theÂ Senate was Jocelyn Burdick, who was appointed to fill a vacancy caused by her husbandâ€™s death. She served for a few months in 1992.
â€œSheâ€™s extremely honest and exceptionally smart, an extremely hard worker,â€ Meyer said of Gulleson. â€œIf she commits to something, she commits 100 percent.â€
Republican candidate Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk said Gulleson would be â€œa very credible candidate.â€
â€œBut my focus is 100 percent on the Republican nomination, period,â€ he said.
Republican legislators have also encouraged former state representative and now U.S. Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.Â
A Republican source close to Berg said he will likely announce his intentions as early as next week.
Joe Aronson, executive director of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party, said he wasnâ€™t sure when further Democratic announcements for state races would occur.
â€œWeâ€™re just very excited folks are inching closer to making an announcement and getting into these races,â€ he said. â€œIt wouldnâ€™t surprise me to see people get in sooner rather than later. Obviously theyâ€™re big decisions.â€