Guest Post: There’s Nothing Noble About Kevin Cramer’s Convention End-Run

I would like to share some thoughts regarding Kevin Cramer’s decision to pass over the Republican Endorsing Convention. As a district chairman, long-time activist within the Republican Party, and organizer of the first Fargo Tea Party rally, I feel I can offer a unique perspective on this choice.

I consider Kevin a friend. I have known him since 1996 and have donated to his many campaigns including his most recent bid for Public Service Commissioner.

Here is the problem I have with Cramer’s decision: He has proffered the notion that his bypassing the Republican Endorsing Convention was based around his desire to allow more people to participate in the selection of the candidate who will represent the Republican Party in the 2012 election. Cramer states, [This election] “is far too important to leave out even one voice, one vote” and “Every Republican should have a wide-open opportunity to robustly debate and participate in this process”. His concerns are the concerns of all Republicans and are valid, but are not realized or alleviated by his choice regarding the convention. I can’t speak to what is in Kevin’s heart, but this claim is simply false based on the process.

The Republican Endorsing Convention is a time-honored method which begins by individual districts electing delegates to represent them. All citizens are eligible to enter this process and compete to participate. Next, through debate sponsorship and dissemination of information as well as candidate contact, the party, at state and local levels, encourages and enables these delegates to look objectively at the participants in the many races, and ultimately vote for their preferred candidate. At that point, the winner of the contest (by popular vote) becomes the Republican Endorsed Candidate and is qualified to appear on the ballot in the primary election, held a few months later. From there, the voters of North Dakota have the right to accept or reject the candidate endorsed at the Republican Convention. If by majority, they vote for the endorsed candidate, that candidate goes on to the general election, if they reject that candidate in favor of a challenger, the challenger goes on to the general election. Skipping or participating in the Republican Endorsing Convention has no effect whatsoever on primary participation or eligibility to vote. For Kevin Cramer to cite a desire for more people to be involved in the process as his reason for bypassing the convention tells you that one of two things are true; either he doesn’t know how the endorsing convention and primary work, which is highly unlikely considering the number of them he has actively organized and participated in, or it is a disingenuous claim aimed at garnering the support of those who do not understand the reality of the nomination process, but can emotionally relate to the suggestion of voter disenfranchisement, even when there is none.

So if that isn’t the reason, what is it? I would surmise that the reasons are these: The first and foremost reason to bypass the Republican Endorsing Convention is an inability to win. I know that Kevin knows that he doesn’t have the delegate support to win. I, as with most active Republicans, received a number of calls from phone banks asking if I would support Kevin either financially or with my vote. If you add up the numbers and don’t have enough to win, why participate? It makes sense. Going to the primary after being defeated at the convention appears as sour grapes. The next reason is money. It is well-known that Cramer has raised a lot of money. I won’t go into where it came from, but suffice to say, he is doing well when it comes to fundraising. If he preserves his funds until the primary, he will have an advantage over the Republican nominee, (who spent the bulk of his or her funds winning the endorsement) which could make it easier to bury them in the primary vote. Don’t get me wrong, these are valid reasons, but not the reasons we are being lead to believe motivated the choice. The facts illustrate that this is simply a self-motivated maneuver to usurp the will of the delegates and destroy the nominee when they are financially weakened.

I won’t argue for a minute that this may be the best path for Cramer to take, and I don’t dispute his right to make this call. I only want to shine the light of truth and reality upon the false notion that this move is borne of nobility and selfless advocacy for the rights of the voters, or that it, in any way, leads to the inclusion of more voters in the process. Politically savvy, maybe; noble, not by a mile.

John Trandem is a Fargo-area Republican activist and the NDGOP chairman for District 45.

John Trandem

John Trandem serves as District 45 Republican Chairman, ND Right To Life Chairman of the Board, the ND Judicial Conduct Commission, and makes frequent appearances on 6:30 POV and Flag Family Radio stations. He and his wife, Lydia, live in Reiles Acres ND, and are active in pro-life and pro-family causes. They have two children, Elsie (3) and James (7 mos.).

Related posts

  • dalaibama

     “The first and foremost reason to bypass the Republican Endorsing Convention is an inability to win.” quote by John

    Sorry. You are wrong, Sir. And as a member of the local republican establishment, it is not your fault.

    You are the same group that supported McCain, and my guess is that you now have your “Romney-2012-More of the same” being put up in public places. They are printed on the back of the “Hoeven for Governor” to save money.

    It’s always hardest for someone who believes they have complete control of the process to see the obvious. The GOP does not control the conservatives in ND.

    You and other GOP leaders tried to co-opt the movement by attending and giving speeches. I attended the tea parties in Fargo, and was able to ask you a question;

    Can the GOP be taken over from inside to become a truly conservative organization again?

    I honestly don’t remember your answer, but it did not give me any warm fuzzies. And as long as you are towing the moderate GOP line, don’t expect everyone to kowtow to you.

    Your group (the NDGOP) is not that special anymore.

  • Rob

    The first and foremost reason to bypass the Republican Endorsing Convention is an inability to win. I know that Kevin knows that he doesn’t have the delegate support to win

    This passage bothers me.  It seems to me that a district chair in one of the state’s largest districts presuming to know, already, how his delegates will vote is indicative of the problems with the convention process that people like myself have been talking about.

    • Dustin Gawrylow

      The “all knowing” mentality is a big problem considering that districts have not even received delegate application forms from the state party yet.

      • ctomrun

        I’ve had apps for over a week.

        • Dustin Gawrylow

          Well, as of last Tuesday, two different chairman told me they were still waiting for them.  

          • John_Wayne_American

            I understand that the apps were sent out just in time for the reorganization on Thursday, your Chair should have them by now.

      • melissapaulik

        They became available last week so District Chairs were able to have them at the reorg meetings. That aside, there is nothing preventing someone who wishes to apply from requesting the app. If you aren’t sure who your district chair is, you can go to the NDGOP site – That same page has a link to the district maps if you aren’t sure what district you are in.

    • John_Wayne_American

      He said he “knows” based on the notion that Kevin’s people have called over and over again to us, I’ve taken 3 calls from those folks myself. So if they are going through all the people that attended last convention, and found that Kevin had a lead or even a chance, by all means he would have stayed in the convention game. 

       I don’t think Mr. Trandem knows who might be the endorsed candidate, only that Kevin spent a bunch of time polling and has chosen this different route. Obviously the phone banks were giving Kevin the news that Kalk, Geottle and Grande were pulling each a large portion of the committed delagates, therefore Kevin as he said more than once, plays his best cards, “fundraising” and bypasses the convention to like Mr. Trandem Mentioned to play against a depleted treasury post convention for the primary vote.I would do the exact same thing as Kevin is doing.  Party popular it isn’t, but If he thinks he can win a money/advertising primary  then its brilliant.  But, there is always a but, should he lose, he will have to look to the private sector for future employment. Perhaps Harold Hamm has another board position open.

  • Camsaure

    John, I predict you will expose your true colors as a progressive RINO, when you show your support for Hoeven and Dullrumple. And to even a greater degree when you support more of the recent “tax and spend” Rino Republicans. Your elitism is showing to be very obvious.

  • Rick Olson

    I honestly don’t know what the big stink within the North Dakota GOP is.  Kevin Cramer has every right to bypass the endorsing convention and take his case (campaign) straight to the primary and let the people decide.  Any candidate has that option under North Dakota law. 

    • Guest Observer

      Well put Mr. Olson! I agree entirely!

  • Demineth

    For someone who claims to “not know what is in Kevin’s heart” you seem to know plenty about his motivation for exercising his freedom to go directly to the primary. time honored processes have been known to change in the history of American politics- what has not changed is the liberty we have to do what we feel we ought as long as no one else’s rights are violated.

  • Guest

    I have a problem with establishment personnel like Trandem is that they think they are the only ones worthy of picking who the public should vote for.  They got after Brian Kalk and convinced him to drop out of the Senate race and that only leave the choice of Berg (whom many will not support and I’m seriously thinking of voting for Heidi).  If they would have kept their nose out of it, perhaps we may have had a better choice than Berg.

    Establisment personnnel are so entrenched in their own sense of self importance that they forget that many many times we don’t like who they pick and we should have the right to vote for whom we not, not those who have cowtowed and kissed the backsides of all the establishment  party leaders. 

    They are upset because they probably promised Kalk the nomination if he dropped out of the Senate race and this throws a monkey wrench in their plans to dictate to us how to vote.  This also shows them how irrelevant they have become and they are afraid. 

    Good for Kevin for allowing me to choose who I want to run!!

    • John_Wayne_American

      ” If they would have kept their nose out of it, perhaps we may have had a better choice than Berg.”
      Like who? You may not like Kalk, I’m not sure why not, but setting Mr. Kalk aside then, whom do you see on the horizon that would have been better than Berg?  Sand? Sorum? Cramer? they would all lose to rick and his 20 plus years of Leadership in the State house.

      I’m glad Kalk chose not to run against Berg. It would have been a waste of fundraising dollars, between the power of incumbency, Bergs personal wealth or the political contacts and base that Rick could draw from he would have been tough to beat.

      Now the delegates will decide weather Kalk,  Grande or Geottle should be the next endorsed candidate to run against Cramer for the nomination. I have no doubt that all will serve the state as Conservatively as the next. Vote for Heidi, I sure she will appreciate your vote, might as well vote for O’bummer too while you are at it.

      • Guest

        When Kalk cowtowed to the local officials, at that point he showed me he was a follower and not a leader.  My vote is going for Heidi

      • Guest

        But it would have shown Berg that he can’t take things for granted because of who he is and who’s bottoms he has kissed over the years.  A good convention fight would have been great.  Plus a week before Kalk ran away scared he assured people on a Fargo radio show that if he lost at the convention he would challenge Berg in the primary.  Kalk is an opportunist and is not worthy of anyone’s vote.  He is worthless

        • John_Wayne_American

          So if we’re in a bar and you tell every one you can woop “Tiny” over in the corner, and all your friends around the table say “yes, we think is ass needs woopin but you are not man enough to do it”. 

           Do you still walk over and punch “TIny” in the nose? 

            I didn’t think so.

          The same thing happened to Kalk,  Brian asked folks he trusted their opinion of the race, and decide to use his powder to fight a different hill. does that make him any less of a candidate?I doubt you would have supported Kalk if he’d stayed in the Senate race anyway so what did he have to lose, as far as you are concerned.

          • Guest

            Yes it makes him less of a candidate when I heard him on the radio say he wouldn’t do what he did. 

          • Guest

            Wow – you sure are arrogant and have all the answers dont’ you.  I said I supported Kalk, talked with him and he let me down.  I want any Republican other than Berg and you are wrong saying I wouldn’t have supported Kalk. 

          • Camsaure

            Oh yeah, I remember not too far back the national establishment Republicans told us that McCain was the only one whom could win.

  • doubtful

    It seems obvious to me that the established party wants to maintain the power they have worked hard to gain, so the change is not to their liking. I also think that Cramer is using this idea to gain his own power and achieve his own ends. I doubt that either party has any moral high ground but I think there is much value in disrupting the status quo, especially right now.

  • JMJ

    Mr. Trandem is the poster child for what is wrong with the entire process. The two-party delegate system is what controls who the rest of the public gets to vote for. I don’t care what the argument for or against Cramer’s moves are. The more choices, the better for the public in general.

  • Lianne

    Mr. Trandem, I am not a political insider. I am a life long voter in North Dakota. Your comment, “I only want to shine the light of truth” , is a false hood. You want to control our vote in your ‘timehonored’ tradition of which many of us find dishonored. Controlling the election process is not a premise upon which this country is based, nor is it in the hearts of the American people. You don’t want to give up control. That is the shining light of truth.

  • I Vote For No Sector

    Don’t you think Kevin is going this route because:

    He believes he won’t RECEIVE the nomination from the Republican Endorsing Convention, and therefore, decided to bypass it on a popularity vote??

    He feels he would bypass the convention nomination route, since he feels he will not win it.  Then, he can try to have the public vote for him over the convention nominee at the primary election.   The winner of that moves onto the November general election.

    Am I in error??

  • Truebeliever

    John Trandem supports Brian Kalk. Be honest about it and admit Cramer’s decision makes it highly unlikely your guy will win and consequently your power has been diminished. Now your vote counts the same as the guy at the coffee shop or the assembly line who doesn’t have access to power. Trandem has made the case for Cramer and has convinced me to skip his district convention and the state convention.

    • John_Wayne_American

      You sound like you are a Cramer supporter, good for you. I guess its safe to say since you are going to skip the convention because Kevin did, you weren’t going to support anyone in any of the other races? 

      If that’s the case, I’m glad you are not going to be  there. This year there will be plenty of people viewing for those delegate slots- no sense in you wasting one of them.

  • John_Wayne_American

    John Trandem is a District chair… oooh one of those all powerful smoke filled room types that gets to make lots of phone calls to get district members to pay dues, send out lots of requests to raise money for the district, call lots of meetings to wrangle over bylaws, that everyone forgets days after they are passed.  

    District chairs are the folks that line up fundraisers that the same 20-30 people show up too, they are the ones that call on volunteers to man phone banks, and ask people to work polling booths, they make sure the yard signs go up in the right yards, and come down the day before the election, they get the place lined up for a warm place to meet before volunteers canvas a neighborhood with fliers or other handouts. 

    Sure sounds like a powerful position to me so far..
    what else..

    District chairs also get to drive to state meetings in Bismark for an hour just to listen to a few people argue, make one or two votes on a date for this or that, or  a replacement officer, then drive back to Fargo in a blizzard.

    Oh yes then this time of year the all powerful district chair has to either cow-tow to his 2-3 legislators in his district or wrangle and twist some ones arm to run for state office. Then set up meetings and make more calls and pleas just to get 20 or so folks to show up for the endorsing convention.ah yes, this super hyped up endorsing process, Port and Hennen make sound like the district chairs interview every delegate candidate to see who is voting for who…  

    this is where those district chairs have all the power oooh…

    Hell, most district chairs are just super happy if they can fill the delegate slate without spending a week on the phone every night.  But Hennon thinks they have this super secret process. He even brought video cameras into the endorsing conventions last time to record “the secrets” Delegate endorsing is set by state party rules that after the legislators and district committee are slated, and a very few district rules are met, (they have to be in the bylaws BTW,  its first come, first on the list. ( 18 yrs old, live in district, pledge to support republicans etc. )

    The process is meant to be as fair as possible for all the delegates and candidates.

    From what I’ve been told I know someone that is a district chair, I see how much time he/she spends on phone lists and just grass roots organizing.  I have no reason to disbelieve what I typed is true.  It is not a glamorous job nor an all powerful high paying gig, it is just work they volunteer for, for the good of the party and their districts.

    Do you have a contrary position??

  • melissapaulik

    I understand that some of the districts have new chairs. I believe the new District 16 chair and co-chair are both Tea Party members, as is Trandem. Are all the new chairs immediately “the establishment” just like John? Or is it’s just a long term commitment to the GOP and a desire to build it up instead of tear it down that is the problem?

    The GOP is just a bunch of people and will always be defined by those who are the most active in it. There are a lot of people on this thread jumping on the bandwagon and trashing the GOP. I suspect many would like nothing better than to see the Republicans lose their grip on North Dakota. (Like I believe for a second that any Republican would vote for Heitcamp)

    The way to change the GOP, assuming you truly consider yourself a Republican or even a Conservative, is to get involved. The rest of you can keep trying to break the back of the organization, but thankfully we have people like Trandem who are willing to stand up for an organization that is this country’s last, best hope.

    • dalaibama

      The way to change the GOP, assuming you truly consider yourself a Republican or even a Conservative, is to get involved. The rest of you can keep trying to break the back of the organization, but thankfully we have people like Trandem who are willing to stand up for an organization that is this country’s last, best hope

    • JMJ

      John Trandem is no true Tea Party member – he may claim to be – but he is not. He at best is a co-opted GOP Tea Party wanna-be. He’s a member of the machine. Party over principle. District 16 is now run by real Tea Party members. Good luck to them.

  • Lynn Bergman

    I applaud Kevin’s decision because after Bette Grande wins the convention’s endorsement for the US House (she won the recent house candidate forum in Bismarck hands down), tea partiers will have a win-win situation in the primary. Also, the presence of more than one name in the primary (whether two or six) will increase turnout, thus improving the chances of the passage of Measure 2, since it appears that almost all government employees and politicians will vote against Measure 2 to abolish property taxes.

    Thanks for stirring the pot Kevin, you retain my deepest admiration!

  • Ratbite

    Mr. Trandem, It’s folks like you in the Rpeublican party & iut’s copted branch the Tea Party Caucus tahat have alienated me from both the National Republican Party & the North Dakota Republican Party. I’m sick fo you conservative hating elitists that favor bigger & bigger government, more & more government spending, more & more goveernment intrusion in our lives & you proabortion shennigans. I will not vote for or support Willard”the father of Obamacare” Romney, Shane”the clone of John”Big Government” Hoeven or Rick”the big spending” Berg. Come election day if the elections are held I’ll either stay home or vote third party.I’m done being slapped in the face by you conservative hating party elites. You’ve forgotten your conservative base & your tirade against Cramer proves you don’t give a large rodents gluteus maximus about your conservative base.

  • Ratbite

    So Cramer can not win the nomination at the primary?? I seem to recall a name from history in Republican Politics. Can you say Robert McCarney??

  • JanneMyrdal

    Brilliant piece John!