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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Finally, a Democrat for governor...

Posted 3/23/16 (Wed)

Here we are nearly through the month of March and the North Dakota Democratic Party finally named a candidate for governor.

Folks, there’s a general election in November and so far, there have been three Republicans and now Rep. Marvin Nelson of Rolla.

The Republicans have already had three debates, a well-attended event in Bismarck in which all three were on the podium, and a lousy turnout in Rugby in which Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem didn’t attend.

I doubt the poor turnout was because of Stenehjem’s not being there, but it could have swayed a few people.

But back to the task at hand. Many of us were beginning to wonder if the Democrats would even select a candidate.

Time is quickly running out and the closer we get to the election, the less time Nelson will have to campaign.

We all know what happened to Ryan Taylor when he ran against Jack Dalrymple in 2008. He was easily beaten by Dalrymple, who had been Gov. John Hoeven’s lieutenant governor.

Taylor was probably the best choice to go up against Dalrymple. He’s well liked by a lot of people, he’s personable, he’s been in the Legislature and understands how the government works, but he was beaten soundly.

In 2012,  George B. Sinner, Gov. George Sinner’s son, ran and did fairly well, collecting nearly 100,000 votes, but was beaten by Dalrymple.

Now Dalrymple is a lame duck and the Democrats have Rep. Nelson to run against Stenehjem, Doug Burgum or Rep. Rick Becker.

Has there ever been a time in North Dakota’s history in which a party waited this long to make the announcement?

Even in the early days of the state, there was always a contest, always at least two political views. It’s what the state needs.

There have been years we’ve had more than two political parties contesting each other and that seems to work out well.

As a clarification, there are always third parties, but they are minor in scope and usually have a very small following.

When we think of leading Democrats in the state, we have to wonder who might be a better candidate than Nelson who is largely unknown.

Again, Ryan Taylor comes to mind, but beyond him some people have suggested Joel Heitkamp, who spent some years in the Legislature.

Heitkamp has become very popular with his radio show on KFGO in Fargo. Could he get enough votes?

Maybe the Democratic Party will pull a rabbit out of its hat and select someone else like Roger Johnson, who was a very popular agriculture commissioner.

I’m beginning to think Lloyd Omdahl should come out of retirement and run for governor. The former lieutenant governor and UND professor is well known and would surely get some votes.

The convention starts in eight days and we, in the media, don’t have a clue how this is going to turn out.

When you pull up the Democratic-NPL Party website, there’s a photo of 11 young, college-age people standing with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

Maybe that’s the answer. Maybe the Democrats should select someone who is young and ambitious and ready to take on the establishment.

Whether you are Republican, Non Partisan League, Independent, Libertarian, Green Party or whatever party exists, you have to agree that the Democrats need leadership. We applaude Mr. Nelson for stepping forward, however, he’s going to have to beat the streets.

If Nelson is the only candidate for governor, the party will alienate voters and that might not matter right now, but you can bet it’s going to in future years when the party re-strengthens itself.

This is really an opportunity not a curse. This is an opportunity for someone who may have hopes of someday working in the governor’s office.

Run for the office, campaign like there is no tomorrow. Hit the streets and start talking. Get some votes take the licks now.

North Dakota politics and North Dakota newspapers have always been strange bedfellows, and there’s always been plenty to write about around election time.

I can’t imagine if Nelson is uncontested. Then what do we write  about after the Democratic convention?

We need a race, even if the Democrats secretly admit it’s a losing battle. We need a race. North Dakota deserves that.