Sinner eyes House spot

FARGO (AP) – North Dakota Democrats are touting a familiar name at the top of their ticket with U.S. House candidate George B. Sinner, the son of former governor George A. Sinner. But they also say the younger Sinner will have to build on his father’s name recognition.

“He’s going to have to, first of all, get better known,” former longtime North Dakota Democratic congressman Earl Pomeroy said Saturday after the party’s two-day convention culminated with Sinner’s endorsement. “He has a statewide name, but they don’t know him and his record in business and more recently in the Legislature. He has a proven record.”

Sinner, of Fargo, has worked as a banker and agribusiness executive and only entered politics two years ago when he won his bid to become a state senator. He will face Kevin Cramer, a fixture in state Republican politics who is serving his first term in Congress.

Cramer is a former chairman of the state Republican Party and member of the state Public Service Commission. Cramer did not immediately return a phone message left Sunday by The Associated Press.

Dan Lipner, Sinner’s campaign manager, said Sunday he expects his candidate to build the same relationship with voters as his father did when he won two terms as governor.

“Absolutely, at the start of any race, introducing the voters to the candidate, to George Sinner, is integral to the process,” Lipner said. “George is a natural. He absolutely loves North Dakota and dealing with the people of North Dakota, hearing their concerns and working with them to solve their problems.”

George A. Sinner, 85, is known around the state as “Bud.” He was first elected as governor in 1984. He guided the state during a tumultuous time due to drought, poor crop prices, weak tax revenues and farm foreclosures. Former President Bill Clinton considered appointing Sinner for U.S. agriculture secretary in the early 1990s.

The younger Sinner, 60, received a political science degree from the University of North Dakota, but until recently opted for the private sector rather than public office. Pomeroy, who has known Sinner since college, said Sinner was never impressed with fame and opted to go into business and raise a family.

“There are a lot of governor’s kids across the country warped by having a famous parent,” Pomeroy said. “Not George Sinner. Not one bit. He’s just as down to earth as can be.”

Two years ago, with both of his children grown, Sinner decided to run for state Senate and won in a district that had been electing Republicans for decades. Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider said Sinner became a leader in the Democratic caucus and quickly shepherded a bill on student loan debt release. He also gained friends on both sides of the aisle, the senator said.

“He’s the kind of person who takes his work very seriously, but doesn’t take himself seriously,” Schneider said.

Sinner only recently decided to run for House, despite pleas from party faithful that began mounting months ago. Chad Oban, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said people shouldn’t read anything into that.

“Anybody who is thinking about running for Congress or statewide office, it’s a big commitment,” Oban said. “A lot of people in the chattering class, as I call them, like to ask, ‘Where are the Democratic candidates?’ At the end of the day, in November, I don’t think anybody is going into that ballot box thinking, ‘Did George Sinner announce for Congress in December, or March?’ It doesn’t matter to them.”