FARGO – North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk announced late tonight that he’s formed an exploratory committee to gauge a possible bid for the U.S. Senate.
Kalk notified his supporters through e-mail that he’d filed the appropriate paperwork with the Federal Election Commission this week.
He isn’t declaring as an official candidate, but the exploratory committee is a firm indication of his interest in vying for the Republican nomination for the 2012 U.S. Senate race.
Kalk’s name has been mentioned in political circles as a potential challenger to Democratic incumbent Kent Conrad, and since the November election, Kalk has made no secret of his desire to seek the position.
Kalk said he started calling his base supporters after Jan. 1 and was surprised by the amount of support he received, saying he already started to receive campaign contributions.
Federal election laws require potential candidates to form official exploratory committees once they raise more than $5,000 in donations.
“We needed to form the Kalk for Senate Exploratory Committee so we could keep gauging support, keep raising money,” Kalk told The Forum a short while ago. “I am not a candidate, but we have filed the paperwork.”
In the short-term, Kalk said his focus will remain serving on the Public Service Commission, which is busy with cases while the North Dakota Legislature is in session.
But, Kalk said the important issues facing the nation are one motivator to consider a bid for the U.S. Senate.
“The issues will drive the decision,” Kalk told The Forum. “What I need to decide is where will be the best place for me to serve.”
Kalk, 44, served in the Marine Corps for 20 years and taught at North Dakota State University, before he was elected to the Public Service Commission in 2008.
“Our nation faces unprecedented challenges as we move into the second decade of the new century,” Kalk said in his e-mail to supporters. “We are all concerned about the direction America is going. I believe we have to change that direction and get our beloved country back on track.”
Conrad, who has served in the U.S. Senate since 1986, has not yet committed to a re-election bid. However, he plans to begin airing radio ads to defend himself against outside interest groups that are spending money in North Dakota to attack him.
Other names mentioned as potential Republican challengers for the 2012 Senate race include Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, but neither has made their intentions known.
Tony Clark, a public service commissioner and former chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party, said earlier this week he wouldn’t be surprised if Kalk advanced himself in the race.
“It wouldn’t be a shocker to any of us – let’s put it that way,” Clark said.
Here is a copy of the e-mail Kalk sent to his supporters this evening:
Fellow North Dakotans,
Since the November election, many of you have urged me to consider running for the Republican endorsement for the 2012 U.S. Senate race. This week, we have filed the necessary FEC paperwork to set up the Kalk for Senate Exploratory Committee.
Setting up the committee will allow us to accept donations, if offered, and to assess the level of support among North Dakota Republicans for a possible run.
I spent 20 years serving our country and our state as a United States Marine. I am now serving the citizens of North Dakota as your Public Service Commissioner. My number one priority, during this time, will be to continue to serve North Dakota as your Public Service Commissioner. That will not change.
Over the next few months, Karen, Jordee, and I will carefully and prayerfully, decide if seeking the U.S. Senate seat best serves the interests of our family, North Dakota, and the United States. It is not a decision we will make lightly.
Our nation faces unprecedented challenges as we move into the second decade of the new century. We are all concerned about the direction America is going. I believe we have to change that direction and get our beloved country back on track.
During the coming months, I will be seeking your guidance and support for whatever course we choose. Together, we can help return our beloved America to its rightful path.