Local legislative race nears home stretch

Sean Cleary, Copy editor

*Editor’s note: The Dakota Student conducted interviews to profile the positions of both teams of legislative candidates running for office in District 42. This is the second article in that series.

As the elections on November 8 approach, local legislative candidates are entering the home stretch of their campaigns.

In District 42 — the district that encompasses much of the UND community — UND students Jake Blum and Emily O’Brien are seeking to be elected to the North Dakota House of Representatives, while Former Rep. Curt Kreun is running for the Senate seat. Blum, O’Brien and Kreun are all Republicans.

The district is currently represented by Sen. Mac Schneider, Rep. Kylie Oversen and Rep. Corey Mock, all members of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL party. Mock is running for election in District 18 this year, and Grant Hauschild has joined Schneider and Oversen on the ticket for the Dem-NPL.

Blum, O’Brien and Kreun met with the Dakota Student to discuss their priorities and vision for the state.


The candidates expressed the desire to keep tuition affordable, but also stressed the importance for maintaining a high quality of education.

“We need to ensure we have have the environment to attracts quality educators and students,” Blum said, also indicating the importance of working to secure a tuition cap to keep prices low for students.

“Sometimes we lose the idea of efficiency in education. We sometimes think if we throw more money at it’s going to be better,” Kreun said, referencing things like improving collaboration between universities in the University system and focusing on career development as ways to make the education system more important. “Jobs make the economy turn, but you have to have the education to get the job.”

The candidates highlighted the importance of transitioning students from the state’s higher education system to the workforce as a crucial part of boosting the state’s economy.

“Local job opportunities, experience and professional development for students are all so important to me,” O’Brien said. “It’s so important for students to have that experience and work ethic by the time they graduate so they are able to transition into the ‘real world.’”


O’Brien, an entrepreneur coach at UND’s Center for Innovation, said the state’s economy and local businesses could benefit from increased public-private partnerships that helped with things like student loan payments, apprenticeships and job placement for students.

Additionally, she pointed out that these partnerships can help small businesses grow and develop, citing programs like the ND Department of Commerce’s Innovate ND program, which provides grants and assistance to entrepreneurs.

“We need to be able to provide those resources and that information so that entrepreneurs and small business owners can operate in an environment where they can grow and develop,” O’Brien said.

Kreun, who owned and operated a variety of small businesses throughout his career, pointed out the necessity of making sure state-level regulations aren’t overburdensome on business owners.

He said that the state could find better ways to balance consumer protection and streamline small business development by examining the current regulations on the books to make sure they serving a specific purpose.

Kreun said that he worked on many projects including infrastructure, rural water and UAS funding during his previous time in the legislature. In the early days of the UAS development in the state, there was some disagreement among members of the legislature about how to best move forward, but Kreun said that he knew further UAS research and development would be important for Grand Forks and North Dakota.

“We need to create good paying jobs to attract students to actually stay here when they’re done with their education,” Blum said, pointing to examples like lower taxes and regulatory burden to create a better business environment.

Voter ID

With the recent court ruling that temporarily halted North Dakota’s voter ID laws, students without an ID with their current address will be able to vote using an affidavit. The candidates said the state and its residents should work to ensure students understand and properly utilize the voting system, regardless of the process.

“We want these people (students) to be a part of the community, we want them to be able to vote,” Kreun said. “If we have it that’s fine, or we don’t have it, we will work either way to make sure these people feel welcome, feel like part of the community and learn how to vote.”

O’Brien and Blum agreed with Kreun on the topic, saying that learning the voting process in the state is an educational process and important for becoming part of the Grand Forks community.

“I’m generally in support of Voter ID laws. However, I do think there is a potential to disenfranchise students,” Blum said, indicating that he thinks the legislature will need to find a more lasting solution that provides flexibility to college students.


Kreun highlighted the need to strike a balance in the budgeting process with the state’s revenues down following a dip in commodity prices. With much of the one-time spending completed following the state’s oil boom, Kreun said the state needs to find a way to effectively allocate remaining revenue and ensure state departments are running efficiently.

“Let’s analyze what we do, make sure we are doing it well and we don’t get too far out into the ancillary areas,” Kreun said.

Blum echoed many of these statements. While he agreed with Governor Dalrymple’s decision to enact the across the board allotment, he said the state will need to focus on refining the budget over the coming years.

“We need to be very careful with across the board cuts; we need more surgical, targeted cuts,” Blum said, adding that lawmakers should make themselves available to constituents, including students, to understand their concerns about the budget.

Sean Cleary is a copy editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]