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Published June 13, 2012, 01:32 AM

Baesler, Potter to Face Off for ND Schools Post

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Bismarck school administrator and a former North Dakota Democratic U.S. Senate candidate won the right Tuesday to face off for North Dakota superintendent of public instruction.

By: Dale Wetzel, Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Bismarck school administrator and a former North Dakota Democratic U.S. Senate candidate won the right Tuesday to face off for North Dakota superintendent of public instruction.

Kirsten Baesler, who is an assistant principal in Bismarck's school system, and Tracy Potter, who lost to former Gov. John Hoeven in North Dakota's U.S. Senate race two years ago, finished first and second in the nonpartisan, three-candidate primary Tuesday.

Max Laird, a retired Grand Forks school teacher and former president of the North Dakota Education Association, finished last.

Baesler said she would plunge immediately into the general election campaign. She is planning stops in Valley City and the state high school rodeo in Bowman, as well as attending as many rural electric cooperative annual meetings as possible, she said.

"We're not going to let up. We're going to push until November," Baesler said. "I'm glad the people of North Dakota support education as much as I do."

The Baesler-Potter race will choose the successor for incumbent Democrat Wayne Sanstead, who is stepping down after 28 years as North Dakota's top elected school official.

The superintendent's office is on North Dakota's nonpartisan ballot. Candidates run against each other in the primary without party labels. The top two finishers run against each other in the general election.

It is the first statewide campaign for Baesler, 43, of Mandan, who is president of the city's school board. She is a member of the North Dakota School Boards Association's board of directors and has worked as a lobbyist on education issues in the Legislature.

Baesler said she believed she was more qualified than Potter, who is a former state senator, tourism director and deputy insurance commissioner.

"I know the issues of education," Baesler said. "I am more knowledgeable and more experienced ... I'm going to run my campaign based on who I am."

Potter, 61, is director of the Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation, a nonprofit that helps to maintain the Fort Abraham Lincoln state historic site.

He served one term as a North Dakota Democratic state senator, representing a central Bismarck district, before he decided to forgo a re-election campaign two years ago in favor of a bid for the U.S. Senate. As the Democratic Party's favored candidate, Potter was shellacked by Hoeven, who got 76 percent of the vote.

Laird's result marked his third unsuccessful campaign for superintendent of public instruction.

North Dakota Democratic convention delegates supported Laird over Sanstead in 2004, but Laird was knocked out of the race in the June primary, when he finished third behind Sanstead and Keith Jacobson, a New Salem school administrator who had support from Republicans.

Laird lost again to Sanstead in 2008, when he ran without seeking Democratic support. Sanstead won re-election with 69 percent of the vote.

Sanstead, 77, was first elected as North Dakota's top school administrator in 1984. He is the longest-serving state school administrator in the nation, according to the Council of Chief State School Officers in Washington, D.C.


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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