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Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, right, the newly elected House majority leader, talks with Rep. Jim Kasper, left, R-Fargo, and Rep. Bill Devlin, R-Finley, at the legislative management meeting Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018 at the state Capitol in Bismarck. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune

A new era in legislative leadership: Pollert settles into role as ND House majority leader

BISMARCK — North Dakota lawmakers started wrapping up their interim committee work Wednesday, Nov. 14, but many eyes were on the House majority leader’s office.

House Republicans filtered in and out of the office on the sidelines of the chamber floor to meet with their new leader, Carrington state Rep. Chet Pollert. The veteran lawmaker was elected to the post in a three-way race Tuesday night, a week after Fargo state Rep. Al Carlson was ousted from the Legislature after a decade as majority leader.

Pollert is slated to oversee a 79-member Republican caucus that holds a supermajority in the state House. He said Wednesday he was learning the ropes of his new job and talking to lawmakers about committee chairmanships, but he said there wouldn't be major changes with those.

Pollert comes from an agriculture background — his run for majority leader was supported by the head of the North Dakota Farm Bureau. He owns and operates G & R Grain and Feed in New Rockford, N.D., which sells fertilizer to farmers and commercial feed to bison and beef cattle ranchers.

"I thought I bring a whole-rounded figure of the ag sector as well as the business community," Pollert said. "But energy's big in the west, and I think I have a good, broad view of that."

In a statement, Gov. Doug Burgum congratulated Pollert and said "his experience as a business leader and as a legislator for nearly two decades will serve the House of Representatives and all North Dakotans well."

Pollert has been in the Legislature since 1999. In recent legislative sessions, he was a member of the House's budget-writing committee and chaired its human resources division.

Pollert said the state's budget will again be on the top of lawmakers' to-do list next session. He identified education and infrastructure as funding priorities.

Minot Republican state Rep. Scott Louser, who was elected assistant majority leader Tuesday, said he’s aiming for better communication between leadership and the rest of the caucus. He also promised improved relations with the Republican-controlled state Senate.

Dickinson Republican state Sen. Rich Wardner, who was re-elected majority leader Tuesday, said he knows Pollert "very well" and predicted the two leaders will have a "good relationship."

Democrats will elect their leaders Dec. 2. Fargo state Rep. Josh Boschee, who fell short in his bid for secretary of state this year, disclosed plans this week to pursue the post currently held by House Minority Leader Corey Mock of Grand Forks.

Mock called Pollert an experienced legislator and said he looks forward to developing new working relationships.

"It's a new era in legislative leadership," he said.

Carlson, who was not in attendance during Wednesday’s legislative meeting, didn’t return a message seeking comment. Pollert said he hadn't talked to Carlson since becoming majority leader, but he praised him for his tenure steering House Republicans.

"I thought he did an excellent job," Pollert said. "When we look at the number of Republican legislators who are in the House, he did his job admirably."

State lawmakers gathered Wednesday in the state House chambers for a two-day meeting to recap their committee work undertaken during the interim period between the biennial sessions. Lawmakers will start the 2019 session in January after a three-day organizational session in early December.

Burgum is scheduled to present his two-year budget proposal Dec. 5.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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