Three North Dakota State alumni are vying for the District 21 vote this Election Day. The trio is running under the Democratic Party ticket.
Sen. Carolyn Nelson is campaigning for reelection; the incumbent has held the State Senate position for District 21 since 1994.
Rep. Kathy Hogan is also looking for reelection; she has been in the State House representing the district since 2009.
Mary Schneider is a newcomer to the race; she is trying to win the State House seat that will be vacated by Democrat Rep. Steve Zaiser.
Nelson squares off with Cindy Pfeiffer for the single State Senate position, a rematch of the 2010 race that Nelson won by a 55 – 44 percent margin.
The trio has studied at NDSU during some point of their lives.
Nelson graduated with a Bachelor of Science in math and music education from in 1959. In 1960 she received her master’s.
Schneider obtained a Bachelor of Science in sociology and a psychology minor in 1972.
Hogan received her master’s in counseling in 1989.
“I bring a history,” Nelson said, “having been here close to 60 years, having been a faculty-child, a faculty member, married to a faculty member and a double-graduate of this institution.”
Nelson is senior lecture emeritus at NDSU, where she taught mathematics. She retired in 2002.
District 21 encompasses constituents living south of 12th Avenue North, into downtown Fargo.
The district has a young, vibrant community – a community including NDSU students, Hogan said.
Power point: Education
NDSU students should be concerned about the election, the candidates said. Much is at stake Nov. 4.
Measure 3, a proposal that if passed will extinguish the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education and the Chancellor’s office, may directly impact students’ lives.
Nelson, along with Hogan and Schneider, will be voting against the measure.
“It’s going to undo something that has worked for a number of year,” Nelson said. “It’s not a reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater.”
Instead of the SBHE, a three-member commission would be formed with the measure’s approval.
Schneider said she is concerned Republicans pushing for the measure’s approval want to eliminate the student representation. The SBHE is comprised of seven citizens and a student who work part-time as the policy makers for the North Dakota University System.
Hogan said she is afraid the board will become politicized.
“It’s a solution looking for a problem,” Hogan said.
Regardless of Measure 3, the trio said they believe reform is needed in the education sector in general.
North Dakota students are in debt, Schneider said, with 83 percent of the student population owing money.
That number is the worst in the nation.
The trio is campaigning for a fixed interest loans and increasing scholarships and grants for students.
Schneider said she wants to make tuition a flat rate for all students, regardless of what state they are coming from.
Hogan said she wants total loan repayment for students who stay in North Dakota after graduation.
Students’ privacy is important to the trio, too. Last legislative session, a company requested students’ public records.
As for educating the state, teachers need better pay, the candidates agreed.
Base pay for teachers is $27,500 in North Dakota, Schneider said. Democrats proposed last year to raise that to $32,000, but it was voted down by the Republican-dominated legislature.
The legislature needs to work together to update NDSU’s out-of-date facilities, too, the candidates said.
Power point: Rights and Priorities
Only 17 percent of North Dakota legislature is women, the candidates said.
Women in North Dakota made up 49 percent of the population in 2013, the census said.
The trio looks to close the disparity gap.
They will be the first all-Democratic, all-women district if all three are elected. Hogan said women have a different mindset compared to their male counterparts.
“We bring a different skillset to the table,” Hogan said.
Schneider referenced a 24/7 Wall Street article that called North Dakota one of the worst states for women.
Schneider said it’s inexcusable, and the last legislative session warred “an assault on women and women’s health in the last (Republican-controlled) legislative session.”
Measure 1 is in the candidates’ crosshairs.
The measure would amend the state’s constitution to read “the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”
Schneider, an executive director of legal services of Northwest Minnesota, said the wording is not clear.
“The principle reasons I’m against (Measure 1) may be coming from my law background, in that it’s changing the constitution,” Schneider said. “And you should never do that unless there’s some incredibly compelling reason to do that.”
She said she was worried about end-of-life policy making and whether living wills will be made “in vain” if the measure passes.
“The government will be substituted as the decision-maker in our end-of-life decision,” Schneider said.
If passed, Measure 1 will not stand against Roe v. Wade, Schneider said.
Hogan said she thinks there is too much gray area, especially when it comes to in vitro fertilization.
Hogan has a grandchild her family lovingly refers to as “The $25,000 Baby” because the child was conceived via IVF.
“To change the constitution is extreme,” Hogan said.
“Around the block”
Like Paper and Lauf, the trio does not define themselves by their age.
“I’ve been around the block a couple of times here,” Nelson said. “But it’s also mental.
“I don’t feel as old as I am. My knees do, but I don’t.”
Nelson said she remembers in the 1950s when Fargo was settled only north of I-94 and “NDSU was on the edge of town and North High was the county fairgrounds.”
Schneider said she believes with age comes more life experiences.
“There’s room for all ages,” Schneider said of the legislature.
Hogan said she understands her district. She has been a resident of District 21 for 43 years. With those decades come relationships.
“We interact with our local community in so many ways,” Hogan said. “I love the district.”
Family ties also figure into candidates’ lives.
Schneider’s son, McLain, is an attorney and the North Dakota Senate Minority Leader. Her daughter, Liberty, is an assistant to U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.
Hogan said her family also comes “from deeply political, but really, more public-service oriented families.”
Nelson said it is imperative to look to the future in North Dakota.
“We are a thriving community that nobody has heard about,” Nelson said. “I’m so proud of the darn state.”
Schneider said the potential in North Dakota is boundless.
“North Dakota has all the potential to be the very best state in the nation,” Schneider said. “We need new visionary leaders.
“I’m extremely excited about the potential we have to share our prosperity in ways other states don’t have.”
Hogan said, “This is the time of opportunity.”