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Advocate for 10 Commandments in schools wins NDGOP support to lead public education


A home-schooling proponent who wants to bring the 10 Commandments into public schools received support from North Dakota Republicans on Friday to be the next superintendent of public instruction.

Delegates voted 967 to 426 to support Jim Bartlett over incumbent Kirsten Baesler, who has led North Dakota’s K-12 education system since 2012.

Superintendent of public instruction is a nonpartisan race, but candidates can seek letters of support from political parties. 

“Public schools are failing at both their moral responsibility and their academic responsibility,” Bartlett said during his floor speech.

NDGOP convention off to slow start due to dispute over Dickinson-area delegates

The vote for Bartlett was one example Friday of a state Republican Party that is shifting away from traditional candidates in favor of those who are more conservative.

Bartlett said Baesler, who previously received support from the state party, was enabling a “leftist” agenda.

Bartlett used his three-minute acceptance speech to lead delegates in the singing of Psalm 44.

Bartlett, of Bottineau, taught engineering at North Dakota State University and is former executive director of the North Dakota Homeschool Association.

In a statement late Friday, Baesler said the outcome from the convention doesn’t change the “great support and momentum” behind her campaign with Republican primary voters.

“Our convention process is flawed — it disenfranchises the tens of thousands of Republican voters who can’t afford to take a Friday off from work or school so they can spend a couple thousand dollars to vote in these contests,” Baesler said in the statement. 

During her speech to delegates, she pointed out that the powers of the superintendent of public instruction are outlined in the law.

“The office only has the authority that is granted to it by the Legislature,” she said.

Kirsten Baesler speaks to delegates during the NDGOP Convention at the Sanford Athletic Complex in Fargo on April 5, 2024. Baesler is running for reelection as the state’s superintendent of public instruction. (Michael Achterling/North Dakota Monitor)

Baesler highlighted that she’s cut 20% of positions within the department to save costs. She also said she promoted transparency by establishing a K-12 dashboard that shows how much each district receives and how those students are achieving.

If reelected, Baesler said she would work with lawmakers to promote school choice initiatives that let families choose the education that best meets their child’s needs.

Baesler previously worked at Bismarck Public Schools, for the North Dakota School Boards Association and served on the Mandan Public School Board. 

Two others plan to run in the June 11 primary for superintendent of public instruction. 

Darko Draganic, a former administrator for the University of Mary and United Tribes Technical College, also is running but did not seek a letter of support from the NDGOP. He has described himself as a Republican.

Former state Sen. Jason Heitkamp, R-Wahpeton, turned in his signatures on Friday, according to the Secretary of State’s Office’s website. 

The top two vote-getters in the June 11 primary will advance to the November election.

Other state races

North Dakota State Auditor Josh Gallion speaks to delegates during the 2024 NDGOP Convention at the Sanford Athletic Complex in Fargo on April 5, 2024. (Michael Achterling/North Dakota Monitor)

Republicans also endorsed Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread, State Auditor Josh Gallion, State Treasurer Thomas Beadle and Public Service Commissioner Randy Christmann.

The state office holders did not have any opposition from within the Republican Party.

Gallion is seeking his third term as state auditor. Democrats on Friday endorsed Grand Forks attorney Tim Lamb to challenge Gallion in November.

Christmann was first elected to the PSC in 2012 and currently serves as chairman. He previously served in the state Senate. Democrats endorsed Tracey Wilkie of Fargo to challenge Christmann in the general election. 

Godfread has served as insurance commissioner since 2016. He was elected president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners for 2025.

Beadle is seeking a second-four year term. He previously served in the state House. 

Democrats did not endorse candidates for insurance commissioner or state treasurer. 

The NDGOP will endorse candidates on Saturday for governor, U.S. House and U.S. Senate.

Committeeman

The only other contested position Friday was the national committeeman to the Republican National Committee.

Delegates voted 920-550 to elect chiropractor Steve Nagel over Shane Goettle, who had served in the position since 2016 and was on the RNC’s budget committee. Nagel supporters touted his opposition of COVID-19 restrictions and mandates. 

Lori Hinz was unopposed and elected national committeewoman. 

This story was updated with comment from Kirsten Baesler after delegates voted.



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