By Jack Dura
Farmer Staff Writer
While Doug Burgum was watching primary election results from a downtown Fargo gallery, his running mate was home alone in Watford City, tuning in with his computer and phone.
“My family was at vacation bible school,” Sanford said with a laugh, “so I was at my house alone.”
Burgum and Sanford, running for the GOP nomination for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively, clinched the gubernatorial nomination, 60 to 38 percent over Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and state Sen. Nicole Poolman of Bismarck. Tuesday’s win brings the businessmen one step closer to Bismarck, though the potential transition from Watford City to the capitol is nothing swift for Sanford, a fourth-generation resident.
“It’s not that easy to untangle,” he said Thursday from his office at S & S Motors. “It’s quite the transition in front of me, potentially.”
With two years to go in his second term as Watford City mayor, Sanford said the city attorney has proposed two solutions should Sanford move to the state’s No. 2 spot.
Those include a special mayoral election or turning the mayor’s seat over to city council president.
Sanford said the timing of a special election is crucial, but is often best held around the time of other elections.
“The easiest way, speaking from experience, is to pick the timing of when an election is already happening but special elections can occur in the middle,” he said. “I’m not sure if we can stick it in with the November election or not.”
Moving to Bismarck would not be strange territory for the Sanfords, as Brent’s wife Sandi has family there; however, uprooting from Watford City would mean a big relocation for the family.
“That’s the part that tugs on your heart,” he said. “Deep roots here.”
As for Sanford’s business, a transition is already underway there to separate the services side of S & S Motors.
Longtime employee Ryan Hansen will take the services operation north half a mile to another shop while Sanford will retain the dealership license and move sales to the business’s previous address at Main Street and Fourth Avenue in downtown.
The post office will lease the current dealership building along North Dakota Highway 23.
Should the Burgum-Sanford ticket lose in November, Sanford will continue on as mayor.
“I would still be in S & S Motors and two years in with two years left on my term,” he said, “and we would get to stay home.”
Sanford thanked voters for their support, particularly those in western North Dakota.
“We feel thankful, and we feel a responsibility to deliver,” he said.
In McKenzie County, 1,789 people voted in the governor’s race, with 933 votes for Burgum-Sanford and 626 for Stenehjem-Poolman.
In local races, a number of candidates advanced to November while some were decided in the primary.
Kenny Liebel, Matthew Beard and Bethany Mulder clinched seats on the Watford City City Council of the six candidates in the race.
“I’m humbled,” Liebel said last Wednesday afternoon. “I’m grateful and I’m excited, so let’s get to work.”
In the county commission race, all six candidates advanced to the November general election, including Richard Cayko, J.R. Ewing, Michelle Lass, Thomas McCabe, Doug Nordby and Gene Veeder.
LeAnne Voll and Billy Carlson won two seats on the Watford City Park Board as well.
In Alexander, voters selected Jeff Whitehurst for mayor. He received 47 percent of the vote in a three-way race. Incumbent mayor Jerry Hatter was ousted, taking second with 12 votes behind Whitehurst.
Richard Modine and Terrille Jacobson won seats on the Alexander City Council as well while Luke Holen scooped up the open seat on the city’s park board.
Alexander voters also approved a measure to reduce the city’s park board from five members to three.
In Arnegard, two write-in candidates won seats on the city council with a wide margin over the four candidates who campaigned.
Lowell Mosby and Neil Nelson received 29 and 22 votes in the race, respectively, while Joshua Moody trailed with 19 votes in third.
McKenzie County auditor Linda Svihovec said in an email that some absentee ballots have yet to be processed, but that may not be the end of it.
“We may very well end up with a recount for that race,” she said.
Alexander, Arnegard and Watford City voters all approved measures to publish city and school board minutes in the newspaper.
In school board races, Darcy Delany, Tim Nelson and Jeremy Heen split the vote fairly evenly for three seats for Alexander Public School District #2.
Dawn Maki won a seat for McKenzie County Public School District #1 with 65 percent of the vote.
Heather Wisness won a seat for Area 6 while Virginia Ceynar won a seat for Areas 2 and 3. Bradley Sanford won a seat for Areas 4 and 5.
Jason P. Rau and Jessica Cayko won seats for Yellowstone Public School District #14.