Do Primaries Hurt Attendance at Conventions?

U.S. House Endorsed Candidate Brian Kalk speaks to the 2012 NDGOP Convention. Kalk later lost in the primary to current U.S. Congressman Kevin Cramer.

In North Dakota’s current political climate, one of the first questions asked of those who announce their intention to run for national or statewide political office is, “Will you abide by the outcome of the convention?” The indication of course is that the candidate being asked may ignore their party’s convention endorsement and go to a run-off in a primary election.

Such was the case with Congressman Kevin Cramer in 2012 when he announced early on in that U.S. House campaign that he would go straight to the primary– much to the chagrin of party faithful. Brian Kalk was the North Dakota Republican Party’s endorsed candidate that year, but he lost the nomination to Cramer in the 2012 primary. Cramer went on to beat Democrat Pam Gulleson in the General Election.

A more recent example is that of Republican Governor Doug Burgum. While Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem won the party’s convention endorsement in 2016, 2nd place finisher Rep. Rick Becker made it clear he wouldn’t go to the primary. Burgum, however, had made it clear he was. And that’s exactly what he did. The result was his stunning victory over Stenehjem for the nomination in the primary election and a cake walk to the Governor’s Mansion over Democratic opponent Marvin Nelson in the 2016 General Election.

While these are just two examples, they are recent ones. And it certainly seems they’ve had an influence on North Dakota politics.

Yesterday, former NDGOP Chairman and state lawmaker Kelly Armstrong made his run at the U.S. House official. While Armstrong says he will abide by the outcome of the convention in April, speculation is that his main competition – State Senator Tom Campbell – will go on to the primary no matter what.

Situations like these cause some to wonder whether it’s even worth it to attend a State Convention? It’s a valid question. Conventions aren’t cheap. Think of it… membership dues, delegate fees, fuel expenses, hotel costs, food, etc. The party faithful that attend conventions sacrifice a lot of time and money to do so. And that’s not even mentioning the long days at the conventions themselves.

Is it worth it to go to a convention if a primary election can change the outcome of it anyhow? Does it hurt attendance to conventions by having primaries? Would eliminating primary elections be problematic for political parties?

I tend to believe there’s still value to conventions. But I certainly understand those who don’t want to go to the expense of attending one when they can simply cast their ballot in a primary at almost no expense.

What do you think? I’m interested in your thoughts.



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About T. Arthur Mason 876 Articles
T. Arthur Mason is a native North Dakotan who has spent nearly all of his life in the Peace Garden State. As the third of four children in Western North Dakota, Mason grew to appreciate family and the outdoors. Some of his fondest memories are annual deer hunts with family and friends. In his early teenage years, faith became a central part of T. Arthur Mason's life. He and the majority of his family attend church together on a weekly basis and find this a fulfilling aspect of their lives. Through the influence of his father, T. Arthur Mason became intrigued with politics. As a boy, he attended political events with his father and enjoyed the friendships that resulted as a byproduct of those political associations. As Mason grew older, he became convinced that the quote often attributed to Thomas Jefferson was true, "That government is best which governs least." Today, T. Arthur Mason enjoys time with his wife and children, an occasional hunt, and an increasingly active life on the political scene. This blog is the fulfillment of a dream to design a web site in the realm of politics and to advocate for the principles of Liberty and constitutionally limited government. On behalf of all those that contribute to The Minuteman, we hope you enjoy your time on the site and will share the message with others.