Over the weekend I wrote about the miserable time Democrats are having finding candidates to run for the legislature. So far the Democrats have held local conventions in ten districts. In nine of those districts, representing 27 seats in the legislature, they’re facing Republican incumbents and have so far found just four candidates to run.
That’s bad. The statewide picture isn’t much better. Until today they had just one announced candidate, Jason Astrup from Fargo who has never held office before and isn’t well known, but now state Senator Tyler Axness has announced he’s running for the PSC.
He’ll make his announcement tomorrow in Fargo and Bismarck. No word yet on which Public Service Commissioner he’ll be challenging. Brian Kalk is up for re-election this year, after getting elected to his first term in 2008. Julie Fedorchak will be on the ballot too. She was appointed to finish off Kevin Cramer’s term in office after he was elected to the US House, but state law requires that she be confirmed by the voters on this year’s ballot. She’ll have to run again at the end of Cramer’s term in 2016.
Since the Public Service Commissioners aren’t usually on the ballot, I’m assuming that their challengers will have to choose which incumbent they’re challenging. I’m pretty sure it won’t work like legislative House races where the top vote getters in the district fill the two seats.
For what it’s worth, Axness was the 8th most liberal member of the state Senate according to SAB’s rankings. During the legislative session last year Axness pushed a much more aggressive conservation fund – one that would have diverted more tax dollars with less oversight to conservation groups – and last month generated a faceplam moment when he went on Twitter to blame a propane shortage on flaring.
Update: I’m told Axness is running against Fedorchak (haven’t confirmed it). It’s an interesting pick. Fedorchak has never been on the statewide ballot before, so there’s that, but whoever that seat in 2014 will have to run again in 2016 when the term ends.
Maybe Axness isn’t thinking that far ahead, seeing Fedorchak as the easier target than Kalk who a) has won on the statewide ballot before and b) is a very good campaigner.