Dems hope Clinton visit will energize party in search of comeback

Bill Clinton

FARGO – North Dakota Democrats are aiming for a comeback in 2012, and they’ve landed a star attraction to help make that happen.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton will deliver the keynote address March 17 during the Democratic-NPL Party’s state convention in Grand Forks.

While in town, Clinton plans to revisit some of the areas he toured during the 1997 flood that ravaged the city and to see the progress that’s been made, said former North Dakota Gov. George Sinner, who made the party’s announcement on Thursday.

State Democrats were overjoyed after tapping Clinton as their featured speaker this year.

“It’s an immense development for the party,” Democratic-NPL Chairman Greg Hodur said. “Our slogan is ‘our people, our future’ and nobody personifies that better than President Clinton. … It’s going to send our delegates home and fired up.”

Hodur said Clinton’s presence will help strengthen an already unified party base.

“That’s something that I don’t think the Republicans can match right now,” Hodur said.

With six U.S. House candidates vying for the GOP nomination this year – including one who plans to bypass the party endorsement process – the Republicans will face a brokered convention this spring and a contested primary election in June.

Nonetheless, the Republicans are also hoping for victory this year, with a prime chance to reclaim the state’s entire congressional delegation.

North Dakota Republican Party Chairman Stan Stein said Clinton’s visit “is a good get” for the Democrats.

“We’ll welcome former President Clinton to North Dakota, and we’ll be anxious to hear what he’s got to say,” Stein said. “It’s an honor to have a past president here, but it’s also an honor to have three candidates who are running for president in the state.”

The Democrats announcement came just as GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney rallied with supporters in Fargo. Fellow candidates Rick Santorum and Ron Paul have also visited the state in the last three weeks.

Andy Zabel, executive director of the state Democratic-NPL Party, said the national race has little effect on state Democrats’ campaign drive this year.

“The national politics will play out nationally. We’re focused on North Dakota voters and what’s important here,” he said, adding of Clinton’s speech: “This is going to create that buzz. … I think it’s very enticing for President Clinton to come out here this early at this stage in the game.”

When the Democrats’ announcement was rumored earlier this week, Sinner said Clinton’s visit will help fuel the party’s excitement in what will be a competitive campaign year in North Dakota.

“Bill always makes people see that government does make a difference; it makes a difference to a whole lot of people,” Sinner said. “He’s one of the brightest people I’ve ever run across. You rarely see that combination of caring, courage and brains.”

Sinner was North Dakota’s governor from 1985 through 1992, during the same time that fellow Democrat Clinton was governor of Arkansas.

Zabel said that relationship and a few personal phone calls between the close friends helped make the visit possible.

Clinton served two terms as president from 1993 through 2001. Since his departure from public office, he’s been actively involved in global humanitarian efforts through his namesake foundation.

North Dakota Republicans will welcome South Dakota freshman Rep. Kristi Noem to highlight their state convention March 30 through April 1 in Bismarck.


What: Former President Bill Clinton addresses the North Dakota Democratic-NPL state convention

When: March 17 (time not yet set)

Where: Alerus Center in Grand Forks

Info: Members of the general public wishing to attend the keynote address must submit a form online at Individuals will then receive a unique printable e-ticket that must be presented to gain entry to the event.

Contact: Call the state party offices at (701) 255-0460 or visit