Kalk, a retired Marine and former college professor, was elected to an open seat on the Public Service Commission in 2008. Three people are elected to serve statewide on the commission for staggered six-year terms, and all three seats are now held by Republicans. Commission Chairman Kevin Cramer was re-elected in 2010, and commissioner Tony Clark, who served a few months as state party chairman, will be up for re-election in 2012. Kalk said his decision on the race won't depend on whether Conrad decides to run for re-election.
"If we decide to get into the race it'll be because of the issues and what we think we can do to better the country," he said.
Other statewide officials could also take a look at the Senate race. Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who took Hoeven's place after the election, and Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, a former U.S. attorney, haven't announced whether they'll run for election in those roles or look for different opportunities in 2012. As a state Representative, Dalrymple lost a Senate race to Conrad in 1992.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, a former state lawmaker, is frequently mentioned as a potential Senate candidate. He won re-election in 2010 with 75 percent of the vote.
What might unite Republicans would be the candidacy of former governor and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer, but Schafer said he has ruled it out.
"The legislative branch isn't in my DNA at all," he said in an interview.
Schafer told Roll Call that someone has been polling potential Senate candidates in North Dakota. He said both he and his wife took calls asking whether they were registered Republicans, an odd question since North Dakota voters don't register by party.
"I received a call from a pollster, and obviously the pollster doesn't know North Dakota because the first question was, 'Are you a registered Republican?'" Schafer recalled. "And I said no, and he said thank you and hung up."
No one has claimed the poll publicly, but the Bismarck Tribune reported that Wrigley and Stenehjem were the Republicans being tested against Conrad.
Correction: Dec. 27, 2010
The article misstated Sen. Kent Conrad's age. He is 62.
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