North Dakota is a big state, and a big state requires big legislative districts.
District 28, southeast of Bismarck is one of them. In fact, on land area alone, it’s right near the top of the list.
But land can’t vote…people do, and for the nearly 13,500 people who call District 28 home, they’ve got a bid decision in a few weeks to choose who represents them for the next four years.
The race features three people vying for two seats. Republican Incumbents Michael Brandenburg and Jeff Magrum as well as Democrat Becky Phillips.
We’ll start with Magrum, a House member since 2016, and former Mayor of Hazelton. He tells us people he’s talked with need more cash in their pockets and he’s got a plan to address that.
“One thing I would really like to work on this year is take Legacy Fund earnings and pay off primary residence property taxes. Right now people are hurting with the virus going on and businesses are struggling. I think it would be a great thing to do for our people this session is to use Legacy Fund earnings to pay for the property taxes and maybe think about doing that long term,” said Magrum.
He says he’s most proud of House Bill 1378, which created supported decision-making, an alternative to guardianship for individuals with disabilities and older adults.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ticket, you’ll find Phillips — a scientist who calls herself an unbiased problem solver. She tells us pushing the pause button on property taxes may not be the best move.
“People need to be aware of what property taxes, what they’re getting for their property taxes. And I believe in property tax relief, I don’t believe in property tax elimination,” said Phillips.
She says not being a politician is one of the things that makes her qualified.
We asked both Philips and Magrum what they feel are the biggest issues facing the district and got a different answer from each.
“The immediate problem in my mind is what we have to deal with when it comes to access to healthcare. And I think we have a lot of people with anxiety around that and what are we gonna do if we lose federal support and we now have critical access hospitals that are in danger of closing,” said Philips.
“We really need to look at our local grocery stores and look at ways to help them stay open. The pandemic really showed that having access to groceries locally is very important,” said Magrum.
Also seeking another term in office is long time Representative Michael Brandenburg, who could not be reached for comment on this story, but has been quoted as saying one of the biggest challenges he sees in his district is trying to figure out a way to make up all the lost oil revenue thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brandenburg also sponsored numerous bills in the last session, including allocating wind generation tax revenue, mandatory safety training for school bus drivers and new penalties for excessive boat noise.
Voter turnout in the District 28 race in 2016 was around 70%.