In the race to win North Dakota's top education post, Kirsten Baesler was poised to defeat Tracy Potter, with 91 percent of precincts reporting at press time.
Baesler was ahead with 144,260 votes, or 55 percent of the total, compared to Potters' 117,222 votes, or about 45 percent, when 388 of 426 precincts, or 91 percent, had reported. A total of 1,013 write-in votes had been cast.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Wayne Sandstead, who did not seek re-election, has been in the job for 26 years.
Baesler said her campaign was successful because of its "focus on the kids and the issues that were going to impact them and prepare them for success."
After battling her opponent's "strong name recognition" early in the contest, she said, the "combination of thoughts and ideas" she presented resonated with voters.
"As people understood my qualifications and realized I had a long history of experience as an administrator and teacher and parent, they knew I could hit the ground running," she said.
"Education is very important to North Dakotans... They realized I really care about students, to live the life they want to lead and be as happy and successful as possible."
She said she's "humbled" and "very grateful" to North Dakotans for "allowing me to be the next superintendent... We have great work to do and we have a great opportunity in North Dakota."
Baesler, of Mandan, is assistant executive director of the North Dakota School Boards Association. She received endorsement from the North Dakota Education Association.
She has 20 years experience as a teacher, media specialist and administrator. For the past seven years, she has served as president of the Mandan School Board.
Potter, Bismarck, has served as executive director of the Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation for 19 years.
A former teacher, he headed up North Dakota's tourism department and has served as a state senator from 2006-10. He was the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee in 2010.
North Dakota's superintendent of public instruction serves a four-year term and receives an annual salary of $102,868.
Although the office is nonpartisan, North Dakota's political parties offer letters of support to their endorsed candidates. Baesler was endorsed by North Dakota Republicans. Potter, who ran as an independent, did not seek a letter of support from a political party.
Max Laird, who was endorsed by the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party, did not receive enough votes in the June primary to qualify for the general election.
Call Knudson at (701) 780-1107; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1107; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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