E-mail this article to
yourself or a friend.
Enter address:


N.D. Senate ag leader loses to challenger

(Monday, Nov. 11, 2002 -- CropChoice news) --

Mikkel Pates, Agweek: FARGO, N.D. — State Sen. Terry M. Wanzek, R- Jamestown, and former chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, lost his re-election bid to three- term state Rep. April Fairfield, D-Eldridge.

“I’m going to pour myself into my farm and my family,” Wanzek says of his plans. “I’m going to manage my farm even better than what we have.”

Wanzek lost by 131 votes out of 5,779 cast, not close enough for a recount. He lost his home area of Stutsman County, N.D., by 89 votes. Wanzek had served in the Senate since 1995 the House in 1993.


In the last few days of the election, Fairfield, a North Dakota Farmers Union staffer, used ads that quoted an Environmental Working Group report that showed Wanzek had received $1.1 million in farm program payments. Wanzek says figures were misleading because they were compiled payments over five years. The payments supported four families when you count his own, his father, a brother and two hired men, he says.

“We are aggressive farmers,” Wanzek acknowledges, saying there was no time to effectively rebut the figures. He says Fairfield also made political hay out of the fact that he received a write-down from lenders on some land he bought 20 years ago.

Fairfield also says Wanzek had locked up his land against North Dakota hunters, a claim he denies.

“That’s what cost me the election,” Wanzek reckons of the attacks on his personal business.

Wanzek and Fairfield had appeared in three public forums. In the forums Fairfield accused Wanzek of advocating positions held by Monsanto, the company that markets Roundup Ready technology, the most common of genetically modified crop technologies in Upper Great Plains agriculture.

Wanzek says he shared concerns over marketing GM crops, but though a moratorium on GM wheat commercialization would be a “negative backward step” for the state. He says Monsanto and other companies already have slowed their schedules for releasing the technology.

Rep. Gene Nicholas, R-Cando, who has served in the House since 1975, won his race by 1,000 votes. Nicholas says Wanzek lost because of a “last-minute smear campaign,” using money from outside the local area. He says Wanzek will be missed but that the Republican “activist agenda” toward agricultural and rural development will go forward — including ethanol incentives.

Wanzek says he was shocked at the results because Republican party polls had shown him running 7 to 9 percentage points ahead of Fairfield until a week before the election, with three-quarters of undecided voters heading his direction.

Wanzek says he thinks it will be a mistake to consider the District 29 race as a referendum on the issue of genetically modified wheat, even though he played a key role in blocking a moratorium on the commercialization of GM wheat in the last legislative session.

Wanzek says his campaign spent up to $12,000 on the election. He believes Fairfield spent more, but isn’t certain. Wanzek, 45, says it will take “some time to heal,” but does not rule out the possibility of future political races.

Fairfield did not respond to numerous phone messages left by Agweek.