BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota voters moved up the deadline to put initiated measures on the ballot Tuesday in a primary election dominated by local contests, including mayoral races where they re-elected a longtime incumbent in Fargo and chose a Williston native over a newcomer to the oil boomtown.
Measure 1, which was the only state ballot issue, changes the deadline for submitting petitions to put measures on the ballot to 120 days before an election, up from the current 90 days.
Secretary of State Al Jaeger pushed for the new petition deadline to give his office more time to review signature petitions for accuracy and to allow the state Supreme Court an extended period to consider challenges. Opponents called it a solution to a problem than doesn't exist.
North Dakota did impose a deadline for submitting petitions at 120 days from 1919 to 1978, when it was changed to 90 days. The state currently has the second-fewest number of days among the states to file petitions before an election, behind Oklahoma's deadline of 60 days.
Voters in the state's largest city decided Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker deserved a third term and chose the 73-year-old over challenger Brad Wimmer.
Walaker is a former city public works director who guided Fargo residents through several major floods. Some voters said they're worried about future flooding and want him at the helm.
Walaker, who was criticized by Wimmer for his lack of rapport with state lawmakers and public officials from neighboring cities, noted during his acceptance speech that he started the day at a signing ceremony of a water projects bill by President Barack Obama.
"It has been a long day," Walaker said in a low, tired voice. "But I was the only person from North Dakota invited to the ceremony."
Wimmer said he left a message on Walaker's cellphone congratulating him for a "decisive" victory.
"Obviously, we are disappointed because it would have been a lot of fun. I don't know how it happened, but it happened," Wimmer said.
Donna Hentges, a supporter at Walaker's election party, acknowledged that Wimmer put more time and money into the campaign but wasn't surprised by the outcome.
"He hasn't done anything wrong," Hentges said of Walaker. "Why would you vote him out?
In the booming oil patch hub of Williston, Mayor Ward Koeser, who stepped down after holding the post for two decades, became emotional Tuesday evening during his final City Commission meeting.
He'll be replaced by City Commissioner Howard Klug, who defeated two relative newcomers to the city, Marcus Jundt and Jim Purkey.
Klug rose from a dishwasher at the El Rancho Motel in high school to part owner now. He said he wants to continue on the path to development and welcomes newcomers but has a less grandiose vision than his opponents.
When contacted at home Tuesday evening, Klug declined to comment on his victory.
His main rival Jundt, an entrepreneur, made a congratulatory phone call to Klug while standing at the back of a restaurant he owns near a glass door leading into his Klug's motel.
"I told Howard it was a hard fought campaign," Jundt said in his concession speech.
Williston voters also approved a $34 million bond issue to help fund a new $56.5 million high school. Residents in Watford City voted to increase the city's sales tax to fund a new $57 million events center and other projects in the booming oil patch town. Voters in Morton and Burleigh counties approved a temporary half-cent sales tax that will finance a new $70 million joint detention center.
Four legislative and a judicial race were also on the ballot.
Reps. Gary Sukut and Patrick Hatlestad, of Williston, defeated T.J. Corcoran in District 1. In District 19, Reps. Gary Paur and Wayne Trottier defeated Steve Burke. Bruce Eckre and Cindy Beck won the District 25 seats over Daniel Rugroden. And in Fargo's District 41, Democrats Pamela Anderson and Sheila Christensen outpolled Lillian Jones.
Two Fargo-area attorneys advanced to fill a judgeship in East Central District Court. Susan Bailey and Tristan Van de Streek will square off in the November general election.
Statewide turnout was well below average, failing to even hit the 20 percent mark.
Associated Press writers Blake Nicholson in Bismarck, Josh Wood in Williston and Dave Kolpack in Fargo contributed to this report.