Is the NDGOP on the Verge of a (Good) Rebellion?


“A little rebellion now and then is a good thing”
– Thomas Jefferson, 1787

The North Dakota GOP, from outward appearance, would appear to be a picture that should be placed next to the definition of “Red State” in the dictionary. They enjoy super-majorities on both sides of the state house, two of three congressional seats are theirs (with the third looking promising come November 2012) along with each of the state constitutional offices (except for the Superintendent of Public Instruction, although one could argue that the technically non-partisan nature of this office should not count for or against party tallies). The governor’s chair is occupied by a republican, albeit unelected. Five candidates are competing for the party’s US House nomination, and two for the Governor.

On the flip side, the ND Democratic-NPL Party is a picture best placed next to the definition of chaos in that same dictionary. Once a mighty force in the state to be reckoned with, it is a mere shell of its former self. The writing started going in that dictionary in 2008 when an election which swept Barack Obama into power (shortly after a midterm election cycle that turned over congress to his party) failed to have a ripple effect in the state; the party missed what was arguably the best opportunity which may present itself in recent times to achieve a majority over or at least parity with the NDGOP. Quite the opposite. The 2008 election resulted in a zero sum gain for the ND Dem-NPL in the legislature, and set the stage for devastating losses in 2010 at all levels of offices.

What’s worse, their 2012 convention had appallingly low turnout despite the appearance of former President Bill Clinton. The party barely scraped together enough candidates to run for each state and federal office up for grabs, and it is unknown at this time if they have candidates for each district legislative seat up for a decision. One commenter to SAB quipped that “…the (Dem-NPL) Time and Place committee will be reporting out that the 2014 convention will be held in the back room of a Pizza Ranch.”

With this level of disparity between the parties in the state, one may assume the NDGOP is one big happy family from outward appearance. With a virtual monopoly on power within the state, how could things be any better, right? Enter reality…

Certain district chairs and the State chair seemingly are at war over the hearts and minds of the record number of delegates set to attend the State Convention in Bismarck this weekend. At the heart of the debate is a pledge put together by a sponsoring committee of these district chairs asking candidates for state and federal office to do something very novel — actually commit in writing to the ideals of the party, especially when this party has collectively drifted away from the very platform and resolutions it promotes in writing.

The proper reaction from party leadership would have been to welcome such a pledge as a commitment to the values which bind that party together, and define it’s very reason for existence. Instead, NDGOP Chair Stan Stein chose the very improper reaction of publicly calling out this pledge, going as far to say that educating delegates on where each candidate stands in relation to commitment to party values was a “breach of trust”. Mind you, this “breach of trust” is not different than what each individual candidate (pledge signer or otherwise) has been using that same delegate list for — contacting these delegates to educate and inform them on what they bring to the table as a candidate.

What was particularly distressing about Stein’s condemnation of this pledge is he seemed to miss how many candidates willingly embraced in writing the very principles his party stands for by signing it. His communications director, Matt Becker, appeared on the Scott Hennen Show today and said the party “didn’t want any candidate to feel rushed” in making a decision on if they would commit to party values in writing. A week was provided to make this basic decision. PSC candidates Blair Thoreson and Randy Christmann have signed, as did House candidates Brian Kalk, Bette Grande, Kim Koppelman and Kevin Cramer. Senate candidate Duane Sand and gubernatorial candidate Paul Sorum signed as well.

Who didn’t? Governor Jack Dalrymple, Rep. Rick Berg, Treasurer Kelly Schmidt, Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm, House candidate Shane Goettle and State Auditor Bob Peterson; some of whom are associated with the NDGOP old guard which has enabled state government to grow by double digit percentages, while handing out of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to special interests. None of whom who have exercised any real leadership when it comes to matters like a Higher Ed system self-destructing under the very deceitful leadership some had a hand in selecting, or an infrastructure system collapsing (literally and figuratively) under an oil boom they want to take credit for and repetitive disasters they have yet to show real leadership in.

Stein’s email prompted this statement from gubernatorial candidate Paul Sorum today:

Whether you support Sorum or not, his response is spot on, particularly when he says “I embrace and proudly PLEDGE my support for the currently adopted “Declaration of Republican Principles”. I also believe any candidate unwilling to Pledge their support for our Republican Principles does not deserve and should not be given the privilege of placing an “R” behind their name on a ballot for public office.“.

One can argue the rebellion started in 2010 when the Tea Party movement was misdiagnosed as more threat than opportunity by the godfathers of the state party. Despite the Tea Party’s role in convincing Senator Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad it was time to retire, and in retiring their sidekick Earl Pomeroy by 10 percentage points, party elders succeeded in alienating many aligned with tea party ideals by simultaneously attempting to co-opt them for their vote, while preventing them from returning the party itself to more conservative values through its actions. Despite this, many aligned with Tea Party ideals have hung on.

Ron Paul can also be thanked for energizing young blood to flow into old arteries, but this generation will not sit quietly by on the sideline waiting their turn to be put in the game. This is in part a generational value they hold; and also in part because they joined to evolve the party (at state and national levels) through returning it fully to the very ideals of liberty and conservatism which are supposed to consist its very foundation. Many others just feel the state and nation are not on the right track, and the only way to turn it back is to get involved on more than just election day.

Through this effort to get involved, the “newcomers” (some party “elite” even refer to them as outsiders) have had to endure or overcome the antics which have kept that elite empowered for too long. A corporate culture of favoritism still abounds, vs. ensuring all candidates have a fair shot at competing for party nominations. This has even prompted some candidates to skip the nominating process altogether (granted, Sand’s decision may be considered by some as coming a little late in the game).

The delegate selection process has improved over the past, but is still not standardized in the party. Some district chairs continue to use this to their advantage. But, despite these challenges, the new blood (regardless of source) is flowing, and could be poised to deliver fresh oxygen to the parts of the state GOP body where it is needed most (starting with the brain). Over 1,900 delegates and alternates have registered for the state convention, according to Becker. This is a 75% increase over 2008, and a 21% increase over 2010. Candidates truly reflecting party values are running, and putting their commitment to those values in writing. Districts, which consist the heart of the party, are having their members stand up to past antics, and are even taking over the leadership positions in some where they have occurred.

Thus, underneath the appearance of the NDGOP’s success exists a party seemingly on the verge of rebellion. This rebellion, though, may be the best thing that could happen to it to ensure it’s future vitality (much like our own nation’s rebellion against England was), and to hold onto the gains they have fought so hard to achieve over time. Mr. Stein and the rest the NDGOP State Executive Committee (as well as the rest of the “old guard” who have helped take the party off course from its very foundation) would be well advised to start going with the flow of this new blood, vs. trying to block it and potentially creating a crisis for the party body as a whole. They would also be well advised to understand that this new blood is looking for a level of commitment to conservative party values from their candidates which was displayed by Sorum and the others who signed the very pledge he was critical of.


LegitSlater is a contributor who focuses on features primarily pertaining to state and local government as well as political parties, but has been known to dabble in other areas. LegitSlater has also been known to pinch hit for Rob when he is out and about in his worldly travels, or attending the occasional Yankees-Twins series. LegitSlater's numerous awards include the personal satisfaction received from informing the vast readership of SAB, spurring respectful debate, and hunting the trophy sacred cows which have been otherwise deemed off limits by the traditional media, elected officials, and the political parties.

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  • whowon

    on the verge of rebellion….not just the NDGOP. Time for the good old boys to move on, we need new blood and conservative thinking, not just what might win an election.

    • $8194357

      Cronyism in the name of conservitism needs to go as much as it does on the marxist social justice leftist side of the ailse…

  • I H8 GOPers

    North Dakota’s Republicans are not conservatives. Get the clue. If the NDGOP kicks out everyone who doesn’t deserve to have an “R” behind their name, they might as well have their convention in the bedroom at the Pizza Ranch.  

    • cherz1967

      The pizza ranch has a bedroom?  Who knew?

      • Camsaure

        Must be due to the Ted Kennedy/Chris Dodd days.

  • Dakota_Mel

    Just because someone is “old” doesn’t mean they are “old guard.” The average age of the Cass County Tea Party members has to be over 40, and quite possibly pushing 50. Much of the “new blood” attempting to change the GOP has been around awhile. The young bloods looking to enter the fray would be wise not to judge a book by its wrinkles.

    • RCND

      Hmmm… I guess I did not take away an age shot from this, nor one where those who have been party members for a while are getting behind, and in some cases, driving the changes.

  • Drain52

    Well said, Rob.

  • Fxerider78

    Dalrymple is not “unelected.”  He is “non-elected.”
    To be “unelected” is to “undo,” “untie,” “unwrap,” — to reverse that which was previously done.

    In that he has never been elected to the office of governor, he is a “non-elected” governor. 

    • I H8 GOPers

      Freudian slip on Rob’s part.

      • RCND

        Rob didn’t write this one

    • RCND

      Thats all you got from that?

  • Camsaure

    The old gaurd may do well to take note that North Dakota has a long history of political upheavels. Not all of them were good by the way. But it is time for them to see the light and join the conservative cause or face the consequences.

    • RCND

      Thats all you got from that?

      • Camsaure

        No just adding another point. The RINOs should not become too comfortable with their status quo.

        • RCND

          Whoops… accidentally replied to the wrong post. Sorry about that

          • Camsaure

            No problem, you did have me a bit confused for a while. LOL

  • Patrickdavis86

    Legitslater, In your opinion who will have to be nominated at the NDGOP convention this weekend to reflect your premise of rebellion.  

  • philipgray

    I can give probably the best eyewitness coverage of this, and as I was leaving I specifically told Corey Fong my exact words. “After this, the republican party lost this f***ing voter!…..I dont think Corey followed me, if he knew what was best…Onto the whole story…
    I was warned earlier that day that something would be going on late in the convention, so I hung around. While hanging around the exit I noticed Sec. of State Al jaeger, and approached him and struck up a conversation with him, on just odds and ends and such. We spoke for a bit, and suddenly he abruptly told me he could not talk, he needed to listen to Stan when he approached the mike…..taking this into account later, it was “by coincidence” the exact same time the convention was I guess coming to a close….
    When I was silenced I looked almost straight across to a group of delegates who were surrounding a mic across the row where I was standing next to mr. jaeger…..I could clearly here her ask twice for recognition, though a bit weak….which I though was odd
    At that point on the second chance to talk I noticed the girl looking and checking the mic, to no avail as I would find out directly within a few seconds….I immediately ran over to the sound panel, and surprise surprise. the knobs were set to zero…..I ran around to the other side, where I believed the head programmer was…(the guy with the beard reddish I believe) and proceeded to shout, “Someone please put here mic on!” I was left with the reddish beard guy, couple media members and notably the blond in control of the board briefly looking back at me…..I next shouted in my military retiree voice, which trusts me,,,it is loud….
    Again, not 5 seconds later the gavel was slammed by Stan and the convention was over….though notably did not hear the second on that….
    I then gave Corey my business and ran over to Attorney general Wayne and shook his hand. While shaking his hand I told him point blank what happened. He acted oddly in perspective, and at that point it was making more and more sense that Republican leaders were aware, including Sec of State, Rules committee chairman Devers (whom I also spoke with), knew what happened….
    I do not want to be a part of any party that does things like this….They whine about following rules, yet broke their own rules to silence a group of delegates…
    Ask yourselves as Republicans this….do you think what was done will help or hurt the party…
    I lastly spoke with the young blonde who pulled the mic, first she admitted she cut ALL the mics on the floor BEFORE closure, but she said that her production manager told her to cut the mic……….plausible deniability I would guess…
    I will note vote for one republican, and am considering voting straight democrat after this, but I will be mollified under only 1 condition….I want to know who gave the call to pull the mics period….We know the production manager would not have made that call without direction….and dont blow smoke up my arse and tell me he did it on his own..Those involved need to apologize and resign from current positions in Republican leadership…period.
    I am by no means a Paul supporter, rather I believe in the rules needed to be abided. These kids were following the rules, and we have leaders in our party who had knowledge of this and knowingly pulled the mics…
    What will happend when others pull our mics, or ability to speak, that is a great affront, which I would not even do to a liberal…..what does this say about my party? We need a change leadership and the rules in place.

  • gort

    I would dearly like to know what the lady at the mike (turned down to zero) had to say since I was looking directly at her.  This is a perfect place to find out.  So, let’s hear it.  It was late in the day and the convention had run overtime so people were eager to get out of that dark, cold building.  So, what was it?