Gulleson delays U.S. Senate race decision; today’s flood updates

BISMARCK–Former state Rep. Pam Gulleson, D-Rutland, said today that she will not make an announcement about whether she will seek the seat of retiring Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., until after flooding issues in the state subside.

“North Dakotans have turned their full attention to helping the families affected by the devastating floods in Minot and Bismarck and the surrounding communities,” she said in a statement.

“My family and I are committed to joining our neighbors and others from across the state to do all we can to help with the recovery.  While I am giving strong consideration to a run for the U.S. Senate, North Dakota families come first. A decision will come only after significant progress has been made on recovery efforts.”

Read more about Gulleson and state Democrats’  call for her to seek the nomination here.

In other flood news today,the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved Morton, Renville and McHenry counties for individual assistance. They join Ward and Burleigh counties. State officials are still pressing for additional counties to be added, including those near Devils Lake.

Velva’s flood evacuation order will be lifted at 8 a.m. Thursday, a news release from the city said.

“The governor and City Commission believe because of the drastic drop in the river and that 100 percent of the river is now within the original levee system, it is safe for residents to move back to their homes,” spokeswoman Maria Effertz Hanson said in a statement.

Also late Wednesday, the governor’s office announced another $1 million donation to flood relief efforts.

CHS Inc. will donate $1 million to help North Dakota communities recover from devastating floods, a news release said. The supplier of agriculture and energy products also is donating $50,000 to CHS employees whose homes have been damaged by flooding in the Minot area. In addition, the CHS Foundation, an independent private foundation supported by CHS, is contributing $50,000 to the American Red Cross to aid the state’s flood relief efforts, the release said.

On Tuesday, Hess Corp. announced a $1 million donation to flood efforts as well.

In case you missed it, here was my story in the paper today discussing how the state will move forward with flood recovery efforts.

FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino said more than 5,000 residents of Ward County have filed for individual assistance, according to a news release from Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D.  In addition, more than $1.4 million has  been distributed between Ward and Burleigh counties, the release said.

Rick Berg likely to announce Senate intentions next week

UPDATED: BISMARCK—A Republican source close to Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., said he will likely announce as early as next week his intentions for the seat being vacated by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.

Politico also reported that multiple Republicans have said Berg will announce his Senate candidacy next week.

Republican state legislators have encouraged Berg to make the move, and some already have their eye on filling his House seat.

Berg has said that he’s “seriously considering” running for the Senate.

Berg, a former state lawmaker from Fargo, is in his first term representing the state in Congress after defeating former Rep. Earl Pomeroy last fall.

Berg now serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, which is charged with writing tax legislation and bills affecting Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs.

Berg would be the second Republican to enter the race. Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk is also running for the seat.

No matter who enters the race, it will be up to state Republicans to decide who gets the endorsement next spring, said North Dakota Republican Party Chairman Stan Stein.

Today, Democrats publicly asked former Rep. Pam Gulleson, D-Rutland, to run for the seat being vacated by Conrad. Find that story here.

N.D. Dems call on Pam Gulleson to run for U.S. Senate

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.

“I’m giving it full consideration. I have not made a decision at this point,” she said. “It’s one that I hope to make sooner rather than later.”

Gulleson said her work as a state legislator, farmer and Dorgan staffer has given her a good overview of the issues.

“I’ve been in every community in North Dakota in one capacity or the other,” she said. “I’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.”

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 “certainly want to campaign for her” if Gulleson entered the race.

“She’s an extraordinary talent, I think,” he said. “I think she would make a great senator for North Dakota. I hope she does run.”

Dorgan said Gulleson is likeable, a quick study and tenacious about making sure things get done and get done right.

“She’d be a tremendous asset for our state if she decides to run for the Senate,” he said. “She knows North Dakota like the back of her hand because she’s traveled every bit of it working in my state office.”

Conrad said he also supports Gulleson.

“Pam Gulleson would be an outstanding candidate and exceptional United States senator,” he said in a statement. “She would be a strong voice for North Dakota in the United States Senate.”

Rep. Shirley Meyer, D-Dickinson, said it would be “history making, precedent setting and long overdue” for a woman to represent North Dakota in the U.S. Senate.

The only woman to represent the state in the Senate was Jocelyn Burdick, who was appointed to fill a vacancy caused by her husband’s death. She served for a few months in 1992.

“She’s extremely honest and exceptionally smart, an extremely hard worker,” Meyer said of Gulleson. “If she commits to something, she commits 100 percent.”

Republican candidate Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk said Gulleson would be “a very credible candidate.”

“But my focus is 100 percent on the Republican nomination, period,” 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. 

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 wasn’t sure when further Democratic announcements for state races would occur.

“We’re just very excited folks are inching closer to making an announcement and getting into these races,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me to see people get in sooner rather than later. Obviously they’re big decisions.”

Commerce chief stepping down

BISMARCK–Commerce Commissioner Shane Goettle is stepping down from his role to serve as state director for soon-to-be Sen. John Hoeven.

An e-mail this morning announced a series of Hoeven’s staff picks who will move from his North Dakota staff to his Senate staff.

Goettle said he will continue in his Commerce position for most of December to help with the transition.

In early January, he will begin his new job, which will focus on constituent services and “good solid communication between Washington and the state, as well as with the public here in North Dakota.”

Deputy Commerce Commissioner Paul Govig will serve as interim Commerce commissioner until Jack Dalrymple appoints someone to the position. Dalrymple, the state’s lieutenant governor, will become governor when Hoeven resigns Dec. 7.

Goettle has served as the state’s Commerce commissioner since November 2005.

Here is the full announcement:

Senator-elect John Hoeven today named key members to his Senate staff to serve in both his North Dakota and Washington, D.C., offices.  

Joining the Senator-elect in Washington will be Don Larson, Don Canton and Tessa Sandstrom. Don Larson, who currently leads the transition office, will serve as Chief of Staff. Hoeven has tapped Don Canton to serve as his Communications Director. Canton has served as head of communications in the Governor’s Office for eight years. Tessa Sandstrom, who recently served as the Director of New Media and Research for the Hoeven for Senate campaign, will assist Canton in the communications office. 

Building the framework for Hoeven’s offices in North Dakota will be Ron Rauschenberger, Shane Goettle, Eileen Wehri and Monty Rauser. 

To ensure a smooth transition for the Governor’s Office, current Chief of Staff Ron Rauschenberger will continue to serve in that role for Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple through the 62nd North Dakota Legislative Session before joining the Senatorial staff as State Director. Shane Goettle, Director of the North Dakota Department of Commerce, will serve as State Director before transitioning to another position within the Senatorial staff.  Eileen Wehri will continue as Hoeven’s administrative assistant and scheduler in the Bismarck Senate office. Wehri has served as his assistant in the Governor’s Office since Hoeven was elected in 2000. Monty Rauser will transition from Constituent Services in the Governor’s Office to Hoeven’s Senate office in Fargo.

 “Our campaign for the Senate focused on bringing North Dakota common sense and values to the United States Senate, and this means having North Dakotans in key positions,” said Hoeven. “These individuals have been a part of a great team in the Governor’s Office, and I’m pleased they will join our team to continue serving both our state and nation.”

Additional staff will continue to be added as Hoeven continues to make his transition to the U.S. Senate.

N.D. senator confused with Tea Party Alaskan

BISMARCK—Joe Miller wants people to know he isn’t that Joe Miller.

The North Dakota Republican state senator said he’s been getting requests for yard signs and press interviews since Sarah Palin endorsed a U.S. Senate candidate with the same name.

That Joe Miller is the 43-year-old Tea Party candidate in Alaska, who bested incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the state’s Republican primary.

Miller, 27, of Park River said his first mistaken identity call came from an Atlanta reporter wanting an interview.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, I think you’ve got the wrong guy. As far as I know, I wasn’t endorsed by Sarah Palin,’” said Miller, a state senator since 2009 who isn’t up for election this year.

Then AARP wanted to know why he hadn’t sent back his questionnaire. Then a political action committee called wanting to send money. And then there’s the weekly requests for yard signs.

“They call coming out of Alaska. That’s what’s hilarious,” Miller said.

Despite some Alaskans not realizing the area code difference, there are some clues as to why people would be confused.

“If you catch me on the wrong day, I do kind of look like him,” said the typically clean-shaven North Dakota Miller. The Alaska Miller has a beard.

The North Dakota Miller’s website is The Alaska Miller’s site is However, the local Miller site clearly says North Dakota on the home page.

Despite the calls and e-mails, the North Dakota Miller doesn’t mind too much and called the Alaska Miller’s campaign office to find out how to redirect traffic.

“Overall, I probably think a lot like that Joe Miller in Alaska,” Miller said. “I’m probably more in line with his way of thinking than I’m not, so it’s no big deal to help him out.”

Byrd and Langer connection

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., is lying in repose on the Senate floor today.

The last senator to do so was Republican William Langer of North Dakota, who died in November 1959.

The following story ran in Roll Call today:

Lying in Repose Has Storied History

July 1, 2010
By Alison McSherry
Roll Call Staff



Today, the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) will enter the Senate chamber one last time. In doing so, he will join a long tradition of Members who have lain in repose on the Senate floor before traveling to their final resting place.

While the practice of lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda is more widely known, lying in repose on the Senate floor is actually more common. In total, 45 people have lain in repose on the Senate floor, according to the Senate Historical Office, compared with 31 who have lain in the Rotunda.

The first to lie in repose in the Senate chamber was Founding Father George Clinton in April 1812. While Clinton never served in Congress, he was the first governor of New York and vice president under both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. He is the only person who lay in repose in the chamber but did not serve in the Senate.

The practice was fairly common in the 19th century and even into the early years of the 20th century. While it was a way of honoring the dead, it was also extremely practical.

“Members very often had funerals in the Capitol and were buried in local ceremonies,” Associate Senate Historian Betty Koed explains. “It was hard to transport bodies in those days. They didn’t have refrigeration for one thing, so up until the mid-20th century the transportation issues were really key.”

The last Senator to lie in repose in the chamber was Republican William Langer of North Dakota, who died in November 1959. Members who elect to lie in the chamber rather than the Rotunda often do so because they feel a special connection to the legislative body, according to the Senate Historical Office.

“Usually these ceremonies are done according to the wishes of the family,” Koed says.

Typically the casket is placed in the well of the Senate, directly in front of the presiding officer’s desk. In many cases, the casket is surrounded by flowers. Byrd’s casket will be brought into the chamber by an honor guard and placed on the catafalque first used during Abraham Lincoln’s funeral proceedings in 1865. Members and those who usually have floor privileges will be able to enter the chamber to pay their respects, while others may view the casket from the gallery.

While a joint resolution is required to lie in the Rotunda, arrangements to lie in the chamber go through the Sergeant-at-Arms, who works with Senate leadership to make preparations.

“Typically, to use the Rotunda for anything it requires a joint resolution between the House and Senate because it’s sort of the middle ground,” Koed says.

Similar memorial practices occur in the House. In total, 31 funerals have taken place in the chamber, the most recent in 1940 when Speaker William Bankhead (D-Ala.) died, according to the Office of the Clerk of the House.

For many years, there was a specific protocol regarding the death of a Member. The news was immediately announced on the House floor and followed by a resolution regarding the funeral. A second resolution was passed that required Members of the body to wear black armbands for 30 days. The House would then host the funeral.

But as Congress grew, so did the cost of hosting funerals. In 1883, the House agreed to set a spending limit of $1,000 per funeral.

The Capitol isn’t the only place where people can lie in repose. Justice Thurgood Marshall lay in repose in the Supreme Court, while Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, who died in a 1996 plane crash in Croatia, lay in the Department of Commerce.

“As far as I know, it can be done in any official government building although it is most common in Capitol buildings,” Koed says.

Political season heats up

With the June primary out of the way, the political season is officially heating up. News releases just kept coming in today regarding the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, state attorney general and state secretary of state races. Everybody’s trying to make some news before the holiday weekend.

Which race will you be following the most in the upcoming months?