Oil Workers Could Tip The Election For Berg
In my analysis of recent polling released by Mason-Dixon and Valley News Live in North Dakota’s Senate race, I flagged western North Dakota voters as a wildcard in the race. “Heitkamp is beating Berg in the Red River Valley (the most liberal part of the state) but Berg is winning in western North Dakota,” I wrote. “Which means that the oil boom, and booming populations in the west, may yet tilt this race to Berg. This poll is probably based on old population modeling. If Republicans can get out the vote in the oil patch, Heitkamp is probably sunk.”
Today Roll Call is picking up on that facet of the race, noting that Republicans are putting a lot of effort into getting out the oil vote in the western part of the state:
It’s difficult to determine the exact number of transient oil workers. But North Dakota’s population has increased by 44,000 since 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Experts say most of that growth is in the rural western part of the state.
The explosive growth has led to a housing shortage. Workers with license plates from as far away as Colorado, Texas and Louisiana reside in small trailer camps. The workers often commute for two weeks at a time to North Dakota before returning home.
It’s almost impossible to poll that population. But operatives believe the oil workers lean Republican, given their profession, and so the GOP is seeking to capitalize on the temporary residents.
Republicans started a super PAC, Brighter Future Fund, to target this specific population. Shane Goettle, who runs the super PAC, said it has a budget of $60,000 to educate oil workers on voting requirements through radio and literature.
“We think that it’s probably to [Berg’s] advantage to have oil fields voters voting,” said Goettle, a Berg supporter. “The size of that advantage is hard to measure.”
The article notes that the Heitkamp campaign has already dispatched lawyers to the oil patch, no doubt to try and disrupt this process. But North Dakota’s voting laws are pretty lax. There is no voter registration, and someone who has lived in the state for 30 days can vote in our elections.
Which is why I don’t think Heitkamp being tied with Berg at this point in the race is any sort of good news for Heitkamp. Not only does the Mason-Dixon poll, in the context of other polls in the race, seem to favor Democrats but it is also showing a trend wherein Heitkamp hasn’t gained any traction against Berg at all. The polled showed the candidates tied in early June, and tied again in early October.
Heitkamp needed to be winning that poll, because down the stretch things aren’t likely to break her way in this Republican-dominated state.Tags: election 2012, North Dakota News, oil boom