Gulleson is among only a handful of women to ever run for the state’s U.S. House seat, and Democrats are rallying behind her in 2012 as their first viable chance at electing North Dakota’s first-ever female member of Congress.
“It is with honor, humility and a strong sense of responsibility that I accept your nomination,” Gulleson said to a roar of cheers from the several hundred delegates gathered in the Alerus Center arena this morning.
The mother of three grown sons spoke proudly of her family and rural roots in southeastern North Dakota.
“Rutland and every other community in North Dakota may be a long way from Washington, but it is close to the men and women who get up every morning and go to work to build a better life for their families,” Gulleson said. “I am one of them, and I am ready to be your voice in Washington.”
Gulleson’s acceptance speech emphasized the various challenges facing America – including the specific impact on rural communities and the middle class.
“We need action; we need to get the job done,” Gulleson said. “We’ll never make progress on these tough problems if we keep getting mired down in politics and the status quo.”
Retired U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan returned to his home state, specifically to help nominate Gulleson at the state convention. He praised his former staffer for her public service at both the state and federal levels.
Gulleson worked as one of Dorgan’s top aides from 2002 until his retirement from the Senate in 2010. She helped with constituent services, before becoming his state director and ultimately his chief of staff.
Dorgan praised Gulleson as “one unbelievably experienced North Dakotan” who “can do it all.”
“You name it, she’s done it and she’s been there,” Dorgan said. “This country needs vibrant, new leadership and an independent voice in the U.S. House. Pam Gulleson was born in that tradition.”
Dorgan rallied North Dakota Democrats in promoting Gulleson’s experience and her chance at becoming the state’s first congresswoman.
“She’s going to out-think, outsmart, out-campaign, out-debate and out-manuever all those old guys on the other side,” Dorgan said, referencing Republicans. “They say a woman’s place is in the house. … I hope they’re listening today: You bet your life it’s in the house – it’s in the U.S. House in Washington, D.C.”
“Pam Gulleson is destined to become North Dakota’s first and next congresswoman,” Dorgan added.
Before her stint with Dorgan, Gulleson was a state legislator, representing Rutland from 1993-2009. During that time, she served as assistant floor leader for three sessions. Outside the Legislature, Gulleson was a licensed nutritionist, and she still helps run her family’s farm and cattle feed lot in rural Rutland, in southeast North Dakota.
Rutland farmer Bill Anderson seconded Dorgan’s nomination of Gulleson, and he praised her history and her vision for America’s future.
“We can see from the years she’s led of public life and experience in North Dakota, that she will lead this nation toward a vision,” Anderson said. “She is a person of immense character and tremendous ability.”
North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party Chairman Greg Hodur said Gulleson’s candidacy is a chance “to rectify the buyer’s remorse North Dakotans have over replacing a longtime Democrat like Earl Pomeroy with (Rick Berg).”
After less than a term in office, Berg is seeking the GOP’s endorsement in the U.S. Senate race.
Democrat Heidi Heitkamp will likely be endorsed in the U.S. Senate race later today, creating the potential that two women could be elected to represent North Dakota in Congress next year.
Both women face a slew of Republican candidates – mostly men – who are also vying for their party’s endorsement in the House and Senate races. Fargo legislator Bette Grande, a U.S. House candidate, is the only female Republican contender in the federal races.
The North Dakota GOP‘s endorsed candidates will be decided in Bismarck in two weeks.