Grand Forks lawmaker Eliot Glassheim dies at 81

State News

(AP) —

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Eliot Glassheim, a longtime Democratic member of the North Dakota Legislature who ran unsuccessfully for a U.S. Senate seat three years ago, has died. He was 81.

Glassheim died Wednesday at a hospital in his hometown of Grand Forks after a long battle with lung cancer, said his wife, Dyan Rey. He is also survived by two children.

A native New Yorker, Glassheim moved to North Dakota to take a fellowship at the University of North Dakota after he received doctorate degree from the University of New Mexico in 1972. In Grand Forks, he worked as a grant writer, policy adviser and author, and he owned a bookstore, Dr. Eliot’s Twice Sold Tales. He was so beloved in his adopted city that its leaders renamed a section of Third Street, “Glassheim Way.’’

“He was New York urbane but also North Dakota nice,” his wife said.

Glassheim served one year in the state House in 1975, and again from 1993 to 2016. He also served on the Grand Forks City Council from 1982 until 2012.

The city’s mayor, Michael R. Brown, said in a statement that Glassheim “embodied the best of public service: Passion, intellect, tireless work ethic, and most of all, steadfast commitment to the people. No person was without value and no cause was too small.”

Glassheim left the Legislature in 2016 due to health issues. His departure was considered a loss even by Republicans.

At the time, conservative blogger Rob Port called Glassheim’s retirement “bitter news,” saying he was “someone special” and a “man whose intelligence and wit and charm often served as a balm when heated debate in the House chamber would leave lawmakers feeling abraded.”

In 2016, Glassheim was a last-minute choice by Democrats to run against incumbent Republican Sen. John Hoeven, who won handily, with Glassheim getting just 17% of the vote.

During his tenure in the Legislature, Glassheim championed successful bills that reimbursed schools for CPR training and established historical protections for state parks.

Glassheim also unsuccessfully pushed bills in the GOP-led Legislature that would have created a state ethics commission and legalized medical marijuana. Voters ultimately approved such measures at the ballot box.

Glassheim, a former smoker, also unsuccessfully pushed to increase the state’s cigarette tax from 44 cents a pack to $1 as a deterrent.

“The purpose of this bill is not to raise money,” Glassheim told fellow lawmakers. “It is to give an extra incentive to help people quit smoking.”

He said he quit smoking when the cost of a pack rose by a dime decades ago.

“I’ll never forget how angry I was at myself for being controlled by a powerful force,” Glassheim said.

Democratic Rep. Corey Mock, of Grand Forks, bought Glassheim’s bookstore a few years ago and now holds his seat in the Legislature.

“Everybody likes to believe they are open-minded,” Mock said. “Eliot truly was.”

“Eliot’s legacy will not be as a city council member or state legislator,” Mock said. “His legacy will be as a good, effective citizen.”


Original Story: North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum is praising longtime Grand Forks state legislator Eliot Glassheim, who died Wednesday at the age of 81, after a long battle with lung cancer.

“Eliot Glassheim was a true statesman whose wisdom, integrity and quick wit made him an effective consensus-builder and beloved public servant for more than two decades in the House and 30 years on the Grand Forks City Council,” Burgum said. “Kathryn and I extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends as we honor his incredible legacy of public service.”

(AP Photo/Dale Wetzel, File)

A native of New York, Glassheim moved to North Dakota in the 1970s.

He served in the North Dakota House of Representatives in 1975 and again from 1993 to 2016, when he retired from the Legislature and unsuccessfully ran as the Democratic-NPL Party candidate against incumbent Republican John Hoeven for the U.S. Senate.

At the local level, Glassheim served on the Grand Forks City Council from 1982 to 2012.

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