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The Dakota Student - Mathern Aims for Top State Gov. Spot

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The Dakota Student - Mathern Aims for Top State Gov. Spot

Veteran of state senate campaigns for health care, student issues, more.

Ryan Johnson

North Dakota voters will choose their governor and lieutenant governor in the November election. This year's race features Republican Governor John Hoeven running again for a third term, with Democratic candidate Tim Mathern and Independent candidate DuWayne Hendrickson challenging the incumbent.


Tim Mathern has served on the state senate for the last 22 years. He became the first person in his family to graduate from college after receiving his degree from North Dakota State University.

Mathern went on to earn a masters degree in social work from the University of Nebraska, and later earned a masters degree in public administration from Harvard University at the age of 50.

For 27 years, he worked at Catholic Family Service/Catholic Charities, and is currently working at Prairie St. John's Hospital in Fargo.

Health care

Mathern said that he has worked throughout his time as a senator to address health care issues in the state.

He put together a bill in the 1990s that attempted to provide more resources for pregnant women and new mothers in order to ensure they would have the proper resources to help them. He said that he wanted to help resolve as much as possible some of the main reasons why women chose to get abortions.

The bill addressed health care for pregnant women, proper care for children, daycare services, family life education services as well as child support issues. It was passed, something he said was a proud moment in his career since the subject of abortion tend to be divisive and controversial.

"When I look back, I would say that's probably pretty close to the top of the list - creating a bill where people on both sides of an issue and both parties work together to actually do something positive," he said.

Student issues

According to Mathern, he has been addressing student issues during his senate career as well. He said that sticking to his principles has meant that he supports policies that help everyone obtain a quality education.

"I pretty much vote quickly on all of the issues," he said. "I say if you've got your basic values down, really it isn't that difficult."
One of his plans if elected is to create a tuition repayment program for students that start or business or work in North Dakota after their graduation from a state school. Under his plan, one-eighth of a graduate's tuition cost total would be given back to them as an income tax credit every year for up to eight years.

He said this plan would use the income tax system rather than developing new government bureaucracy. Mathern added that it's important for the state to be innovative in providing incentives for students to live in the state after their graduation.

He estimated that the plan would cost $11 million for the first year and the funding would come from the general fund. Even though this is a large amount of money, Mathern said that the indirect benefit of keeping the students here would far outweigh the costs.

"It has great potential to basically say to our young people, here is a reason to stay," he said. "We give our young people so many reasons to leave."

According to Mathern, North Dakota has become a low-wage state that may attract some companies but end up underpaying workers. He said that efforts by Governor John Hoeven to get new companies to the state are sending the wrong message to college students that would like to remain in the area after graduation.

"I don't think we should give millions and millions of dollars to create jobs that are low-paying," he said. "I just think that's counterproductive."

He also supports proposals for a two-year tuition freeze and increases in grants to students.

"As far as I'm concerned, this is all an investment and this is all good news for North Dakota," he said.

Election goals

Mathern said that he would remain focused on health care as a top priority if elected. His plans call for providing coverage for the 15,000 uninsured people between the ages of 1 and 21 by extending an existing program called Healthy Steps.

Under current arrangements, the federal government reimburses North Dakota $.74 to the dollar for money it spends on insuring its young people. Mathern said the current eligibility cap of 150 percent of poverty level should be removed in order to open up access to the benefits.

"This is not a costly program ... it's taking what's already available to us and extending it to everybody, not just some folks," he said.

He said that he would also work to promote wellness and prevention efforts that can reduce future health issues and therefore lower health care costs by up to $2 billion in North Dakota.

Upgrading rural hospital infrastructure and creating an income-based health insurance plan for adults are also top health care priorities, he said.

Lifelong Rolette, N.D. resident Merle Boucher is Mathern's running mate, and has been leader of the House Democratic caucus since 1996. Boucher taught at Rolette High School for 20 years and is also a farmer.

He attended NDSU-Bottineau and Mayville State University, and earned a bachelor's degree in secondary education.

The other two candidates, John Hoeven and DuWayne Hendrickson will be featured in Tuesday's edition.

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