Growing up in the small town of Ray, deep in the heart of North Dakota oil country, Erin Oban never gave a single thought to a career in politics. But as the middle child of her family, she often resolved disputes between her siblings.Now, as a state senator, her willingness to mediate between opposing parties has gained her a reputation as a pragmatist among her colleagues. (She also worked as a middle school teacher, wrangling 7th and 8th graders, which likely comes in handy too.)
After a stint working in the office of North Dakota’s at-large House representative, Earl Pomeroy, Oban decided to run for office herself. The Democrat defeated an incumbent Republican in 2014 to represent Bismarck. During her first legislative session last year, she focused on family leave legislation. She’s also worked to promote education policy, making it a priority to attract top-notch teachers to the state.
In addition to her legislative role, Oban is the executive director of Tobacco Free North Dakota, a nonprofit. She helped pass a bill last year banning e-cigarette sales to minors. “I want to be someone who makes people feel like they can be involved, and that their voice matters,” she says.