Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer enjoyed the overwhelming support of North Dakota voters on election day for his bid to serve in the US House. Now he’s Representative-elect Cramer, and Governor Dalrymple is tasked with picking his replacement to serve out the remaining four years of his six year PSC term.
Whoever is picked would have to have that appointment confirmed on the 2014 ballot, and then run again for re-election at the end of the term in 2016. So, obviously, picking someone with experience and pedigree for the position is of the utmost importance as whoever is picked won’t have a lot of time to build up that experience before having to face voters and opposition for Democrats who, for the last few cycles, have had the PSC in their cross hairs.
District 44 State Rep. Blair Thoreson has been the favorite for Dalrymple’s nod so far. Thoreson has a lengthy track record of policy-making in the state having served in the legislature since 1999 (he won re-election earlier this month), serving on the Government Operations division of the House Appropriations committee. He also currently serves on the interim Administrative Rules, Budget Section, and Government Services committees and was employed in the telecommunications industry for 14 years (the PSC has oversight over telecommunications in ND).
Thoreson also ran for the PSC in the last cycle, though he lost a friendly competition at the NDGOP convention to Christmann (who will be seated on the PSC in the coming term). Cramer has said in public interviews that he would like to see Thoreson take over his seat on the PSC.
But another name has apparently come up in discussions about this appointment. Julie Liffrig Fedorchak, Senator John Hoeve’s state director, has been named by credible sources as another potential appointee. Fedorchak has a long history in media relations, marketing, communications and speech writing (she also served as director of communications under former Governor Ed Schafer for six years), but not the policy background that Thoreson enjoys.
One knock on Governor John Hoeven, under whom Dalrymple served as Lt. Governor, was that he tended to be a bit too consumed with political patronage in these appointments, passing over perhaps more deserving candidates to reward loyalists in his inner political circles. Sometimes there has been a distinct impression that Hoeven’s circle of loyalists are a party within the NDGOP. Fedorchak could be viewed as that same sort of appointment, I think.
Let’s hope that Dalrymple sides with Thoreson and policy experience over patronage and political loyalty.