Ryan Rauschenberger, Wayne Stenehjem nab North Dakota GOP endorsements

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ND Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem speaks to delegates Saturday at the ND Republican convention while his wife, Beth, and Republican party chairman Rick Berg look on at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

(WDAY)– North Dakota Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger was open Saturday during the State Republican Convention in Grand Forks about his struggle with alcohol addiction, saying it’s better to talk about it instead of sweeping it under the rug.

“It’s something that I feel is very good for me to be open about, but also good for others,” he said. “I can help others too. … I know people have reached out to me and have said, ‘Your openness has really helped me get in to get some help.’”

The support was evident as Rauschenberger received the unopposed endorsement from GOP delegates at the Alerus Center. The tax commissioner of five years will face Kylie Oversen, the North Dakota Democratic Party Chair and Grand Forks attorney.

The GOP also endorsed Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem in his bid for re-election. The longest-serving attorney general in North Dakota has held his office since 2001.

“Sometimes it seems like I just got here since we’ve done a lot, but there is much more for us to do,” Stenehjem said.

He will be challenged by David Thompson, a Grand Forks trial attorney who was endorsed last month in Grand Forks by the state Democratic Party.

Stenehjem touted his involvement in prosecuting human traffickers and online predators. He said his office has worked with other agencies not only to warn children to be careful online but also to send a message to online predators.

“You better be wary on the internet, because you don’t know who you are talking to either,” he said, speaking to potential predators. “It may just be a cop.”

Stenehjem won the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2016 but lost in the primary election to Gov. Doug Burgum by 20 percent.

Rauchenberger touted his experience in the state Tax Commissioner’s Office. He was a deputy tax commissioner when he was appointed in 2013 by then-Gov. Jack Dalrymple to replace outgoing Tax Commissioner Cory Fong. He won his first election to the seat in 2014.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve made a lot of progress over the years, but our work is far from over,” he said, adding he wants to continue his work by simplifying the tax code and supporting pro-business tax policy.

Rauschenberger has been in alcohol addiction recovery since 2014, when he took a leave of absence from office to seek treatment. He was arrested for drunk driving in September and later pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol — a misdemeanor.

Republicans also are set to endorse candidates for ag commissioner, two public service commissioners and secretary of state this weekend.

In other news, interim GOP Chair Rick Berg was unanimously elected to his position for the long term.

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