Former US House candidate Shane Goettle spoke with me last week about voter turnout in the oil patch. Goettle was the manager of the Brighter Future Alliance which worked to get out the vote in western North Dakota.
I had written previously that turnout in oil patch counties wasn’t very good. Voting in oil counties was about 48% of the increase in overall voting, but it just wasn’t that big of a total increase. There were just 2884 more votes from oil-producing counties (all of which, with the exception of Mountrail County, skew heavily Republican) in 2012 as compared to 2008. But Goettle says if you look at absentee voting, the oil patch voters did turn out.
My thought, leading up to the 2012 election, was that the growth in western North Dakota (historically much more conservative than eastern ND) would fundamentally change the political dynamics in the state. So much so that the normally “do or die” vote in the Red River Valley wouldn’t be quite so do or die. That didn’t happen in 2012, at least for Senate candidate Rick Berg, who couldn’t get enough votes in the west to offset his big deficits in the east.
But Goettle said that the oil patch vote may still bring a shift to the state. As more workers move here and put down roots, they may become more interested in voting. Whether or not that will help Republicans keep their hold on the state government, or weaken it, remains to be seen.
I also asked Goettle if he planned to run for public office again after his run for the House this last cycle. He said he has his eye on elected office in North Dakota but for now he’s focused on his private sector business.