ND Legislator’s Book Is Less Than Flattering Comments To Governor Dalrymple, Congressman Berg
Yesterday I posted about a new book out from former ND state House Majority Leader (and former NDGOP House candidate) John Dorso. I read several chapters of the book last night. It’s pretty interesting for North Dakota political junkies, though obviously a self-published work which would benefit greatly from the efforts of a good editor (not that I, a self-publisher, have any room to complain).
I had emailed Mr. Dorso yesterday to request an interview about the book, noting that the interview would probably take place before I had a chance to read the entire thing. Mr. Dorso wrote back and said that he’d rather do the interview after I read the book because the subject matter is “controversial.”
He wasn’t kidding. Some of the stories he tells are sure to raise some eyebrows in the state’s political circles. Case in point, Dorso accuses Congressman Rick Berg (then a member of the ND House and serving as Speaker) and former Governor Jack Dalrymple (also serving in the House at that point) of a quid pro quo arrangement aimed at defeating his first bid to become Majority Leader.
Dorso’s opponent was Rep. Bob Martinson (who is still serving in the House):
Bob was a tough campaigner. He used the fact that I was from Fargo against me. He played on the old regional bias’ of Leader Kloubec being from Fargo and the likely Speaker would be from Fargo in the person of Rick Berg. It was time for leadership to come from the west. He was also of the old school, that made deals about chairmanships and committee assignments to get votes. I had been told by my mentors not to make those types of commitments as it would become a trap. As I made the obligatory calls to round up support, I knew it was going to be close. What surprised me on election night was who did and did not vote for me. You never know for sure because the ballot is secret and the totals are not announced. As an example, Rep. Jack Dalyrmple (R), Casselton, voted for Martinson. Jack and I had played golf together and had known each other for years. I should have known when he wouldn’t give me a straight answer after I asked for his vote. …
Speaker Berg made Jack Chairman of Appropriations. I don’t know how Rick Berg voted, but I suspected a deal was cut early on. Although I was asked, I refused to make deals. My refusal usually got a chilly reception. The fact that I never got into dealmaking may have hurt me once, but it served me well in the following years.
Martinson ultimately won election to the Majority Leader position, and Dorso wasn’t impressed with his tenure there, all but calling him lazy and accusing him of being in former Governor Ed Schafer’s pocket:
Majority Leader Martinson was never known to be a hard worker. While Chairman of the then three day Committee, State and Federal Government, it was common to not schedule bills for hearing on Monday mornings; this allowed the members to drive in to Bismarck on Monday morning rather than Sunday afternoon. It made the chairman popular, and he wasn’t asking for more bills. His work ethic showed in the Majority Leader’s office. He didn’t come in early and was seldom there late. Lunches were held in his office where he invited different legislators to join him. It was hardly a business atmosphere. As the session went on, older members of the caucus complained that Bob was in the hip pocket of the newly elected Governor Schafer. The criticism might have gone away, but on occasion, the Leader would handle a bill in such a way that people became convinced he was taking orders from the Governor.
Dorso’s account of Martinson’s term as Majority Leader is one of a do-nothing who had to be replaced behind the scenes, subtly, by Dorso himself at the urging of then-Senate Majority Leader Gary Nelson:
The second day of this arrangement, we were in Gary’s office, in the Senate, having a meeting of House members. We couldn’t meet in the House Leader’s office and certainly not on the House floor. When Bob came walking in, I thought the jig was up, and he was going to have a fit. Instead, he asked an inane question about a picture on Gary’s wall and then said goodbye. We didn’t see him the rest of the day.
To be clear, these are just one man’s recollections of what happened. I’m quite certain that Berg and Dalrymple and Martinson would remember things a big differently.
And you have to wonder what purpose is being served by Dorso digging up this relatively ancient minutiae? His book contains a lot of interesting history from the era of North Dakota’s government he served in, and from previous eras as well, but I don’t know that re-litigating old political turf battles from nearly 20 years ago is helpful to anyone.
Titillating for political junkies and bloggers, perhaps, but hardly supportive of the thesis of Dorso’s book.
I’m sure I’ll have more as I continue to read the blog, including a full review later and (hopefully) an interview with Mr. Dorso himself.Tags: bob martinson, jack dalrymple, john dorso, North Dakota News, Rick Berg