North Dakota Tax Commissioner Cory Fong, appointed to his position by then-Governor John Hoeven in 2005 and re-elected in 2006 and 2010, has sent a letter to Governor Jack Dalrymple today announcing his resignation effective December 31st.
This is a surprising move. Back in July I had emailed Fong asking him if he intended to run for re-election. “I’m making plans to run again for Tax Commissioner next year,” he said in a written reply. ”An official announcement will likely not come until later this year or even the early part of 2014.”
No word yet on the reasoning behind Fong stepping down. The move could be a tactical one. If Fong had a change of heart and decided not to run in 2014, stepping down now would allow Governor Jack Dalrymple to hand-pick a replacement.
This gives that replacement the advantage of roughly a year in office, thus allowing him/her to run as an “incumbent” in 2014 against the Democrat challenger. It also preempts the NDGOP nominating process, as it’s unlikely that a Republican already in office would draw a serious challenger, particularly in a down-ballot race.
Assuming Dalrymple nominates someone intent on running in 2014, and not a placeholder candidate, that person would almost certainly get the NDGOP nomination with little chance of a challenge.
Update: According to the Fargo Forum, Fong is going to work for Odney Advertising, joining another Hoeven-era appointee Shane Goettle:
According to Fong’s announcement, he will specialize in business consulting and public and government affairs at Odney and also will work to continue expanding the firm’s capabilities in government relations as they merge with its media relations, campaign and public relations services.
“Throughout my career I have enjoyed most those opportunities where I have worked directly with North Dakota businesses to help them be successful,” Fong said in his announcement. “I am thrilled to be able to take that experience to the private sector where I will work with businesses every day so they can take full advantage of the great opportunities of doing business right here in North Dakota.”
Update: I spoke with Fong via telephone this afternoon and asked him why he had a change of heart after telling me he would be running earlier this year. “In July it was still my intention to run,” he told me. “This opportunity came about in the last couple of months and it won’t exist in a year.”
I asked him why the Odney position wouldn’t exist in a year, and he said it’s because the company is trying to get their public affairs division off the ground. “They’re trying to get things together for the next legislative session,” he said. “The opportunity wouldn’t be available for me in a year.” Which means, according to Fong, if he didn’t take the job someone else would get it.
Fong said he’s served in government “for 19 years” and looks forward to working with Goettle who he had worked with in the past at the state Commerce Department.
Here is Fong’s resignation letter: