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Longtime rivals for North Dakota's Democratic endorsement for governor became teammates in a few moments Saturday.

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Rivals become team: ND Dems back Mathern-Boucher

Longtime rivals for North Dakota's Democratic endorsement for governor became teammates in a few moments Saturday.

Longtime rivals for North Dakota's Democratic endorsement for governor became teammates in a few moments Saturday.

Minutes after Tim Mathern narrowly won the endorsement of state Democratic convention delegates to run for governor this fall, he appealed to Merle Boucher to be his running mate. Boucher, urged on by cheering delegates, accepted.

Mathern, 57, who is a Fargo state senator, and the 61-year-old Boucher, who is the North Dakota House's Democratic minority leader, will now go on to face Republican Gov. John Hoeven and Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple in the general election campaign. Hoeven and Dalrymple are seeking an unprecedented third four-year term in their jobs.
Mathern defeated Boucher 489-461, or 51 percent to 49 percent, in convention delegates' balloting Saturday for the Democratic endorsement for governor.

Both men said Mathern's request soon afterward that Boucher join him on the ticket was not a surprise. During long campaign trips and appearances at district conventions, Mathern and Boucher have discussed the possibility, depending on who won the top spot, they said.

"He and I have worked together in the Legislature for 18 years. Philosophically, and policy-wise, we're very close," Boucher said.

Both men said the tacit understanding had not made the contest between them less vigorous.

"He competed to win this thing. I competed to win this thing. We felt it was most important that we continue that competition right to the end, and then whoever won it has to make the call," Mathern said.

Boucher's loss was his second unsuccessful attempt to get the Democratic endorsement for governor. In 2004, he lost to Joe Satrom, a Bismarck businessman and former state senator.

The Democrats' convention schedule had delegates choosing a lieutenant governor candidate today. Mathern said he made the request because he believed convention delegates would quickly embrace it.

"I had a sense that we're ready, so why wait?" Mathern said.

One of Boucher's responsibilities during the fall campaign will be to support the Democratic legislative ticket, Mathern said. Democrats are hoping to snatch control of the North Dakota Senate, which would require a three-seat gain to accomplish.

"We want a Democrat Legislature when we have the governor's office in January," Mathern said. "We don't want a Republican Legislature and a Democrat governor." By Dale Wetzel,


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