Dr. Shelley Lenz, a veterinarian from Kildeer, North Dakota, felt the state’s western end hasn’t been receiving as much support as it could.
Lenz, running to be the North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party’s candidate for governor, said she identifies as an independent. Prior to her Friday, Jan. 31 announcement, Lenz was looking for either a Republican or a Democrat candidate she could support.
“I decided I am that one,” Lenz said. “I have the much stronger voice that is missing. I wanted to be the kind of candidate that I can support.”
Should the Democrats nominate Lenz, she’d face incumbent North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican. While Lenz previously served on Kildeer’s school board, she considers a possible match against Burgum as a meeting of two non-politicians.
“It is time to elect a governor who will find solutions to fill the 30,000 open jobs in the state and fight for an economy that works for all North Dakotans,” Lenz said when announcing her run for governor.
Workforce development and vocational education are among two planks of Lenz’s platform. She hopes to see more programs like the joint vocational schools available in Ohio, where she grew up.
“We want to attract more workers to North Dakota and we can also train them locally,” Lenz said. “Why didn’t we have joint vocational schools for our 16 year olds? They can hit the ground running with their careers and be mentored at the high school level.”
Lenz, who moved in 2007 to North Dakota, where her family has roots, also hopes to aid communities in their efforts to attract and retain residents.
“Young families come to western North Dakota, but we’re finding there’s community infrastructure that’s missing, housing that’s missing. I want to change that. Education — our schools are busting at the seams and they need more support. Our workforce is going to come from these young families, so we need to help our communities,” she said.
A first-generation American on the side of her father, a German immigrant, Lenz said she is fascinated by human cultures and religion, while also confirming she identifies as an atheist.
“The best part of the New Testament is how it describes Jesus’ humanitarian philosophy,” she said.
Lenz spoke to Daily News while in Nicaragua on behalf of Sustainable Vets International.
“It’s about providing sustainable economic development in underserved regions,” she said. “We have a workforce of 25 people and we do check on the progress pretty regularly.”
North Dakota Democrats will hold their state convention March 19-22 in Minot. North Dakota Republicans will hold their convention March 27-29 in Bismarck.
The state’s primary election will be held June 9, 2020, the same day elections in North Dakota cities including Wahpeton. North Dakota’s governor’s race will be decided on the national election day, Nov. 3, 2020.
In 2016, the Burgum-Brent Sanford ticket received a majority of votes in Richland County, District 25 and North Dakota itself.
More than 78 percent of votes in Richland County went to the Republicans, according to the North Dakota Secretary of State website. That’s compared to nearly 79 percent of votes in District 25 and more than 76 percent of votes statewide.
“Gov. Burgum and Lt. Gov. Sanford look forward to campaigning on their record and vision for the future,” campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf said. “They helped diversify the economy, eliminated a $1 billion shortfall without raising taxes and are working First Lady Kathryn Burgum to treat addiction like the disease it is.”
Lenz anticipates spending the next nine months speaking to North Dakota voters in rural communities as well as the state’s eastern cities. She’s proud of residents’ pioneer spirit and make things happen attitude.
“You have to be genuine,” she said. “You can’t be too stuck in your ideology. This is a place where you can’t be a poseur, because people will see through it.”
With elections approaching, look to Daily News for updated coverage of campaigns, candidates and items under consideration in North Dakota, Minnesota and across America.