District 4 candidates list priorities for Legislature
Candidates list priorities for Legislature
Three Republican incumbents face challenges from Democratic-NPL opponents for legislative seats in North Dakota’s District 4. The district extends from Ward County’s gooseneck into Dunn County, taking in the Fort Berthold Reservation and the rural area south of Minot.
Incumbents are Sen. Jordan Kannianen of Stanley and Reps. Terry Burton Jones of New Town and Clayton Fegley of Berthold. Running on the Democratic ticket are Lisa Finley-DeVille of Mandaree for the Senate and Hunter Andes of Plaza and Thomasina Mandan of New Town for the House.
Finley-DeVille is a lifelong resident of Mandaree. A 100th-generation North Dakotan, she said she will bring a fresh perspective rooted in rural community values.
“I have dedicated my life’s work towards improving the quality of life for all people. My diverse educational background and experience has well prepared me to lead the people of District 4 to the best of my ability. The people’s health and safety will be top priority,” she said.
Finley-DeVille holds master’s degrees in business administration and management from the University of Mary. She received a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and associate degrees in science and information management from Nueta, Hidatsa, and Sahnish College.
She serves on the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council in Washington, D.C.
“The number one pressing issue facing the 2021 Legislature is the health and safety of the North Dakota citizens as we continue to navigate this pandemic. We need an economy that works for everyone, but we must first ensure the health and safety of the public is top priority,” Finley-DeVille said. “We need stronger state leadership that respects a true democracy. We need balance within each branch of government. Governor Burgum and his executive orders cannot and will not solve the problems that many North Dakotans continue to face. I will work hard on behalf of all North Dakota citizens, especially those who have been left behind and left out of important conversations, such as landowners, farmers and ranchers. Environmental and public health protections are needed now more than ever for a more prosperous North Dakota. All communities deserve access to clean air, clean water and healthy soil for the future generations.”
Finley-DeVille said she is stepping up to bring stronger leadership for the district in Bismarck and is committed to listening to constituents.
“K-12 education funding, affordable access to healthcare, ensuring we diversify our state’s economy are very important but not enough attention has been given to the issues that matter most to not only my family and me but for the future generations,” she said, stressing the rights of landowners and environmental protections.
“The Bakken oil and gas development has brought much environmental, health and social impacts that have changed our way of life. We must protect our water, land and air but also educate the people on the aftermath of rampant oil and gas development. We need to hold decision-makers accountable for allowing companies to have more rights than people who choose to live in our rural areas. Power must be in the hands of the people, not a select few. I am not against oil and gas but industry needs to be accountable and responsible for their clean up,” she said.
Kannianen has served in the state Senate since 2017.
“As a self-employed family man of faith, my practical life experience and knowledge has helped me serve the people well. Whether as a missionary overseas or serving in church, Boy Scouts, cemetery board and township board positions, I’ve believed in being involved and in serving my whole life. It’s important to serve for the right reasons, and that’s to do what’s best for the people and their natural rights,” he said.
Kannianen holds a master’s in management from Minot State University and a master electrician’s license.
He said the top issue facing the Legislature is the structural gap in the state budget. With recent income tax cuts saving taxpayers $750 million this biennium and increased education funding saving property owners $1.3 billion, there is a heavy reliance on oil tax revenues to cover general fund expenditures, he said.
“This is fine when the price of oil is strong, but now, with oil tax collections coming in below forecast, oil revenue might not be there to make up the general fund gap between ongoing revenues and expenses – more than $800 million. The individual tax savings made possible by oil revenues have been good over the past several years, but decisions will have to be made on cutting certain budgets and/or increasing tax revenue somewhere. Cutting would need to happen before any tax increase,” Kannianen said.
He supports efforts to provide state aid for school construction needs. With the “Bakken Premium” that leads to higher building costs, and with some school districts working with a limited tax base, it is challenging to pass a bond issue for new buildings, he said.
Andes is a Makoti native with degrees in English and English education from Minot State University and an associate’s degree in engineering technology and mass communications from Bismarck State College. He was active in student government at BSC, served as a legislative page and has worked for the McLean County Independent as a news reporter. He recently started a nonprofit organization. At 23, he would be one of the youngest legislators to serve, if elected.
Andes said the state will find itself short of money due to oil prices crashing.
“But ensuring K-12 and higher education don’t get cut is one of my higher priorities,” he said. Previous cuts to higher education were crippling, especially for the small institutions, he said. If elected, he said, he would be looking out for Minot State University and Bismarck State College.
He also would advocate for the state to acquire the Coal Creek General Station and Falkirk Mine operations between Washburn and Underwood. The power plant owner indicated plans to close the facility, which is served by the mining company, at the end in 2022.
“We own a bank. We own a state mill in Grand Forks. Why not a coal mine?” Andes said. Coal mining is crucial to the economies of the neighboring communities and even the larger communities of Minot and Bismarck, he said.
“It’s a perfect opportunity for the state to step in and take it over and secure jobs,” he said.
Mandan is a small business owner and doctoral student in educational leadership.
“I understand the importance of a strong economy, and I can relate first hand to other business owners,” she said. “I understand the funding issues faced by students as I have faced those same issues.”
As a former science teacher for a public school system, she said, she also knows the challenges facing public school educators.”
Priority issues she sees facing the 2021 Legislature are health-care related, including preventing the loss of health care due to pre-existing health conditions and containing the spread of COVID-19 while keeping the economy going.
“Education funding for public schools should be addressed in the upcoming Legislature, especially with the additional costs due to COVID-19 faced by school districts across the state,” Mandan said. “I feel the rural districts have a financial shortfall in the area of emergency services and for fire departments. The funding issue should be addressed in the 2021 Legislature in terms of better funding the rural departments, or to begin funding the departments.”
Fegley, a Berthold ag producer, was appointed to a House seat in 2018. He has served on a rural volunteer ambulance service and the Ward County Human Service Zone Board. He also has served on the Human Service Committee in the House. He has experience serving on a township board and Ward County Planning Commission, which he said adds to his knowledge in serving on the House Political Subdivisions Committee.
He said the state budget will be the top issue in the 2021 session. His years of experience on different boards and the business of farming in up and down years will be valuable in that discussion, he said.
“You need to have the discipline to not spend when the money is not there,” he said.
Fegley added the state gas tax did not cover the needed matching funds for federal dollars for infrastructure, roads and bridges last session so will need to be adjusted. He said legislators also need to figure out how electric vehicles can contribute to the tax collections for roads.
Fegley said he would listen to the experts in determining a COVID-19 response because there may not be clearcut answers.
Terry Burton Jones
Jones, a farmer, rancher and contractor, has served in the House since 2017.
“I have had a great variety of experiences in my life that have taught me how to be an effective problem solver. I have worked with many government agencies dealing with water law, public land issues, government contracts, farming issues, construction issues and environmental issues,” he said. “I love being a legislator in North Dakota because the great people of North Dakota bring their problems to us and allow us to try to help. I try to take a common sense, proactive approach to problem solving in our legislative endeavors so the solutions we provide will benefit North Dakota for years to come.”
He said the top issue facing the Legislature is ensuring the state lives within its budget.
“We are going to have to reduce the bloated spending we have created inside our agencies. In my opinion, there isn’t an agency in ND that wouldn’t operate more efficiently with a 30% cut,” Jones said. “While living in Wyoming, I experienced the type of session we are going to have in 2021 in ND. The wise legislators there used a formula for cutting spending when they had to. The formula basically was: if a group or organization was solely funded by state government because it was easy to get funding from the Legislature during a boom cycle, it was an indication that their organization or effort did not have enough merit to attract private or other funding sources. Therefore, it was not appropriate for legislators to fund their organization. If they got half or more of their funding from other sources, then that indicated that their effort had enough merit to continue to be funded by the Legislature. I am going to be promoting that methodology with my colleagues in the Legislature during the session.”
He also wants tough action against any paid protestors.
“It is my opinion we are going to have to treat this very seriously and legislate that they can be charged as mercenaries, similar to what is done in a military environment, if they engage in these destructive and illegal activities in ND. Anarchy can not be tolerated inside of a democratic republic society,” he said.
Jones added he wants “American” recognized as a race of people in the country as defined as a group living under common rules and laws.
“We are a society of immigrants called America,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where we came from. It only matters that we are here now and where we are going. … It is my intent to use race and the race questions to unify us instead of dividing us the way the radical extremists are using race to divide us now. I will also be working with the national delegation to see if we can get a similar movement going at the national level. We are the greatest nation in the world and we should act like it.”