Breaking Down the Election: District 35 House Candidates


District 35 is in the middle of Bismarck, it’s where the capitol grounds lie. We sat down with the four House candidates vying for your vote in November.

Representative Bob Martinson was first elected to the North Dakota House of Representatives in 1972. He’s served every term since, except one while acting as state tourism director.

The Republican incumbent adds, “I spent about 26 years in the National Guard. I’m retired military, and pretty much an entrepreneur my entire life; I’ve worked for myself.”

Representative Karen Karls is also a Republican incumbent. She’s been in the Legislature for 12 years.

Karls explains, “I used to visit the Legislature before I was ever working there or elected there. My father was in the State Senate for 28 years.”

Both Democratic candidates Joe Elsberry and Rachel Thomason have never been candidates for office before. 

Elsberry says his involvement in the Neighborhood School Movement to keep a couple District 35 schools from closing, prompted him to run.

He says, “We kind of figured out that it was all in response to some state budget issues, and so I just kept staying involved after the fact.”

Thomason was equally moved by the closings.

The Democratic candidate explains, “North Dakota is really not, certainly as much as we would like, putting our kids’ schools from K-12 to higher education at the top of the priority list.”

All candidates explained and stressed the importance of balancing the District’s budget.

Martinson adds, “We’re looking at a substantial shortfall again this year from 3 to 500 million dollars.”

Karls says Republicans wants to fix the issue without raising taxes.

The Democratic candidates want to make sure money isn’t being cut from local schools. 

Thomason says, “Schools are the last thing that should have to beg for money.”

And all four candidates told us why you should vote for them:

Karls explains, “I have the experience and I’ve worked hard for the people of District 35.”

Elsberry says, “I’m compatible with the people of District 35, because I want our schools to be open in 10 years. I want my boys to grow up here and raise families if they want.”

Martinson shares, “I have a voice at the table, a strong voice at the table. My colleagues know me, I know them and I work well within the Republican majority.”

Thomason says, “I’m like them. I’m not a career politician, I’m a mom and a wife. I’m a small business owner.”

In the end only two will have a seat at the Capitol in January.


If you want to know more about what’s important to each of these candidates, we’ve added some additional information below:

Martinson wants to raise salaries for state employees. He says it’s been too long since government workers received a raise.

Karls says the Second Amendment is very important to her. She is on the board of her local gun club.

Elsberry wants to work toward stability for working families, including affordable living and childcare costs.

Thomason is also concerned about childcare costs. She says it can cost a family more per month than a mortgage.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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