North Dakota Democrats have a fight on their hands: State Senate Majority Leader William Heigaard was endorsed to be the party's gubernatorial nominee by delegates to the Democratic state convention in April but state Attorney General Nicholas Spaeth is running against him in Tuesday's primary.

And this has not been a friendly fight. In what may be an understatement, retiring Gov. George Sinner (D) said, "There is quite a bit of negativism going on."

Spaeth won reelection in 1988 with more than 70 percent of the vote, and polls have him well ahead of Heigaard, a rural banker who has never run a statewide race.

Heigaard's ads have depicted Spaeth as untrustworthy and a bureaucratic empire-builder who has doubled his budget and staff. One ad shows Spaeth's desk -- 3 feet by 8 feet -- swelling to engulf the screen. But, the ad charges, "Spaeth says that government can't afford to provide health insurance for our families." Spaeth answered with ads accusing Heigaard of hiding his record and running "dozens of malicious ads." One spot says, "Bill Heigaard is lying about my position on health care. You know better than to believe politicians like him who are willing to say anything to get your vote."