Bismarck, N.D. — Colorado Sen. Gary Hart will likely win a landslide victory in North Dakota's presidential primary on June 12. But that doesn't necessarily mean Democrats in the state are strongly in Mr. Hart's corner.
North Dakota's 18 delegates to the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco are not bound to vote according to the primary. Thus, campaign strategists for Walter Mondale and the Rev. Jesse Jackson chose not to place their candidates on the ballot here.
The only names on the primary ballot on the Democratic side are Gary Hart and Lyndon Larouche, controversial author and economist. (Mr. Larouche is the only candidate to have visited the state in 1984.) President Reagan's name will appear alone on the GOP ballot.
Delegates to the Democratic National Convention were chosen at the state party convention in April. Of the 18 delegates, six were committed to Walter Mondale and three will support Gary Hart.
Many state Democratic Party officials say they believe Mr. Mondale will be a stronger challenger to Mr. Reagan than Senator Hart because the former Minnesota senator, like his mentor, the late Hubert H. Humphrey, is well known and respected in North Dakota.
No matter who wins the Democratic endorsement in San Francisco, he will face an uphill battle in the November general election here. North Dakota has been a strong Republican state during the past 50 years and Reagan is considered a favorite.
But the President could be vulnerable in North Dakota this year because many of the state's farmers, who have faced foreclosures from the Farmers Home Administration and are dissatisfied with the administration's payment-in-kind program, are not pleased with Reagan's stance on agricultural issues.
With only one major Democratic contender on the ballot and few contests for state office within the two parties, the voting turnout is expected to be low.
A heavy turnout is expected in November when state voters will decide what is expected to be a hard-fought gubernatorial contest. Republican Allen Olson, a first-term incumbent who formerly served as the state attorney general, faces Democrat George Sinner, a farmer and veteran state legislator, who survived a challenge from former Gov. Arthur Link in April.