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Many Candidates Vying for Fargo City Positions

Jon Pike
 June 8, 2022
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FARGO — Fargo’s city elections of 2022 are likely to be memorable. First of all, there are seven people, including the incumbent mayor vying for that title and 15 people competing for two city commission seats, including one incumbent. So, there will be at least one change for sure in the make-up of Fargo City government.

In the last city election, Mayor Tim Mahoney ran unopposed, and there were nine candidates for city commission.

It will also be only the second city election, in which, the City of Fargo, which is unique among municipalities in the United States for having approval voting. Approval voting is very simple. You vote for as many candidates for an office as you approve. A person could vote for all 15 candidates for city commission.

Is there any evidence that a greater understanding of approval voting has fueled the interest in public office?

City Commissioner John Strand, who is not up for election this time, says he is skeptical about that. Rather, he believes, part of the increased interest is different types of “people standing up for more things they are passionate about." He said, "People who've been underrepresented are stepping up. People who are New Americans are stepping up.”

And, indeed, there may be something to his assessment. There are three candidates for city commission who have New American backgrounds, Ahmed Shiil, Matuor Alier, and Ves Marinov. Only one of them, Marinov, has a European background. Five are women. They include: Anna Johnson, Jodi Plecity, Victoria Johnson, Denise M. Kolpack, and Jennifer Benson. So, there is a chance, this time around that another city commissioner could be female, and that one could have a New American background. Incumbent Tony Gehrig is not running, but incumbent Dave Peipkorn is.

Three women, including current city commissioner Arlette Preston, are running for mayor, the other two are Representative Shannon Roers Jones, R-Dis. 46, and Sheri L. Fercho. One person with a New American background, Hukun Dabar, is also running for that office.

Somewhat related, but unaffected by approval voting, the Fargo School Board election has 15 people running. 10 of those are women, and one of them, Nyamal Dei, has a New American background.

Strand adds that if approval voting did not necessarily have an impact on the number of people running, it will certainly help determine the outcome.

Will Thompson is a city commission candidate but has previously run for the state legislature. He says he thinks that approval voting is having an effect on the number of candidates, because people no longer have to feel like they are taking votes away from someone of like-mind. Instead, people can jump in the race and drum up a conversation without fear of hurting like-minded people and, in fact, they can only help other like-minded people but getting more of the public involved.

Jed Limke is a local activist who helped get approval voting passed in Fargo. He said he concurs with Thompson that the presence of approval voting is opening up the field of candidates.

“Candidates shouldn’t have to worry about whether-or-not their presence will spoil the election for their supporters such as Perot and Nader," Limke said referring to previous third party presidential candidates. “And we can see from this crowded field that the candidates are taking that to heart.”

But for the approval voting advocates like Limke, what’s important to them is that a large field of candidates is unlikely to get a bare plurality of votes. While Limke adds that for a crowded field like this, it's hard to expect more than 50 percent of the vote for a candidate, but 35 percent would be a reasonable expectation.

Fargo city elections and primary elections for state and national political offices is scheduled for June 14. Commission and mayoral elections are at-large.

The City of Fargo has already sent out applications for paper ballots. They are postage-paid to mail in. More information can be requested by calling (701) 241-1333.

Early voting started on June 6 and runs through June 10 at the following locations:

FARGODOME
1800 North University Drive, Fargo, ND 58102

West Acres Mall Community Corner
3902 13th Avenue, South Fargo, ND 58103

DoubleTree Inn
825 East Beaton Drive, West Fargo, ND 58078

Locations for voting on Election Day are:

FARGODOME
1800 North University Drive, Fargo, ND 58102

West Acres Mall Community Corner
3902 13th Avenue South, Fargo, ND 58103

DoubleTree Inn
825 East Beaton Drive, West Fargo, ND 58078

Fargo Civic Center
207 4th Street North, Fargo, ND 58102

Atonement Lutheran Church
4601 University Drive South, Fargo, ND 58104

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