Both of the state's major political parties held rallies in Minot Saturday with the hope of energizing their supporters, and perhaps gaining a few new ones, just days prior to next Tuesday's election. Republican and Democratic candidates made bus stops in front of enthusiastic gatherings.
Democrats staged a "Bring It Home, Heidi" rally late Saturday at the Electrical Workers Union on North Broadway. The Minot stop was one of five Saturday, sandwiched between a 12:30 p.m. rally in New Town and a 7:15 p.m. stop in Kenmare. The Heitkamp tour bus
arrived a few minutes late but was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd.
Democrats staged a “Bring It Home, Heidi” rally in Minot Saturday. Left to right are: Tex Hall, chairman, Three Affiliated Tribes; Heidi Heitkamp, U.S. Senate candidate; retiring Sen. Kent Conrad; Ryan Taylor, candidate for governor; Brad Crabtree, candidate for Public Service Commission, and Pam Gulleson, candidate for U.S. House of Representatives.
Retiring Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., introduced candidates Brad Crabtree, Public Service Commission; Ryan Taylor, governor; Pam Gulleson, U.S. House of Representatives; and Heidi Heitkamp, U.S. Senate. In addition, several local candidates were recognized at the gathering and were the recipients of vigorous applause.
Each of the featured candidates outlined what they would do if elected to office. It was exactly the reason that some voters were in attendance.
"I'm here because I'm really hoping for Heidi Heitkamp and Pam Gulleson and Taylor to make it, and I'm also really excited to meet the other candidates," said Susan Rintoul, Minot.
"I'm here today because I think it's important to get Heidi elected to the U.S. Senate. She has a fabulous vision and I believe she'll do a lot for our country," added Gina Alford, Minot.
Overall, just a few days prior to the national election, the candidates and the crowd expressed optimism over the possible outcome of Tuesday's voting. Saturday was the third of five days of Heitkamp's 30-community bus tour to discuss her vision for the future.
Heitkamp's brightly painted bus was not the only one that made an appearance in Minot Saturday. Republicans stopped in Minot about noon Saturday to meet with supporters at the party's Victory Office. The western portion of the tour also took them to Bismarck, Stanley, Williston and Dickinson Saturday. The statewide tour is scheduled to conclude today in Jamestown.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple was unable to make the trip to Minot due to his attendance at a troop send-off, but Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, Senate candidate Rick Berg and House candidate Kevin Cramer joined other state and local candidates at the rally.
"We are seeing really great turnout and tons of excitement in the crowd. We are just getting really geared up for Tuesday," said Anna Nix, communications director for the North Dakota Republican Party.
The bus tour provides a chance to thank local supporters who have made phone calls and knocked on doors, and it helps to keep the momentum going, Nix said.
Candidates have been talking about how far the Republican Party has come in recent years," she said. Republicans once faced a daunting challenge in trying to wrest a single congressional seat away from the Democrats. The party has not only gained dominance in state offices but now holds two congressional seats and is optimistic about gaining the third.
Nix credits the change to the satisfaction that North Dakotans appear to have with Republican leadership.
"They have been happy to put their faith in the Republican Party," she said. "I think we really represent the values of North Dakota. We work hard. We balance our budgets. We encourage capitalism and free enterprise."
Republicans kicked off their bus tour in Bismarck with a video message from presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who gave Berg his endorsement
Prior to this weekend's bus tour, Berg went on a "Drive to Restore the American Dream" tour across the state, which also featured appearances in some communities by the governor and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. Chris Van Guilder, spokesman for the Berg campaign, said the response from the public across the state has been encouraging in the past few weeks.
"It gives us a lot of energy, being out and among people who are responsive to the Republican message," he said.