With his family behind him, State Representative Dan Johnston (R – District 24) officially announced his candidacy for the office of State Treasurer from NDGOP headquarters in Bismarck tonight. Johnston is seeking to replace the person who has served longest in that capacity— Kelly Schmidt.
Notable attendees were Schmidt, State Auditor Josh Gallion, Public Service Commissioners Brian Kroshus and Randy Christmann, Rep. Rick Becker (R – District 7), and Rep. Ben Koppelman (R – District 16); together with other legislators, friends, and family.
Last month, Kelly Schmidt surprised many when she announced that she wouldn’t be seeking a fifth term. At the time she took office in 2004, Democrats had occupied the Treasurer’s office for about 20 years. In his remarks, Johnston joked that Schmidt took over an office that was “like Berlin after World War II.”
Introducing Johnston tonight was Brian Kroshus and legislative colleague Ben Koppelman. Kroshus expressed his appreciation for the friendship he has with Johnston’s family and hailed Rep. Johnston’s “willingness to run”. Koppelman spoke highly of Johnston’s character, passion, commitment to family, and integrity.
Never one to “mince words”, Johnston expressed his view that the Treasurer’s office is “critical for accountability and transparency for the people’s money“. Going further, he said:
“Lest you mistake what I just said, I didn’t say the ‘state’s money’. The Treasurer is accountable to the people.”
In saying this, it’s obvious that Rep. Johnston sees the office as important. This may end up being a far different view than whomever might oppose him. Speculation in political circles is that Johnston may even face someone for the NDGOP endorsement and nomination who wants to eliminate the Treasurer’s office.
Movements to phase out the position aren’t new though. Voters rejected a General Election ballot measure to do just that in 1984, when 43% of voters favored the effort. Then in 2000 another attempt was made in the June Primary. That measure came up short with 47% of the vote.
State Senator Tim Mathern (D – District 11) ran on eliminating the office in 2016 when he opposed Kelly Schmidt in the General Election. But Mathern managed to convince just over 29% of the voters to cast their ballots for him.
Not to be deterred, Mathern signed on as a co-sponsor to House Resolution 3004, during the 2017 Legislative Session— which again would have proposed eliminating the office. This bipartisan effort bit the dust when the House defeated it on a vote of 18 – 68. The vote came after a floor debate that revealed Kelly Schmidt’s leadership in making the Treasurer’s office perhaps the most efficient department in the State Capitol.
Hailing Schmidt’s accomplishments, Rep. Johnston expressed his commitment to building upon them.
One of the more interesting aspects of Johnston’s speech came when he committed to honoring the outcome of the upcoming NDGOP State Convention. This means that if Johnston faces a challenger and loses his bid for the party endorsement, he would not seek the nomination in the June Primary.
For now, Rep. Dan Johnston is the only candidate in the race. Only time will tell if it remains that way. I’m guessing it won’t.
Note: If you’re interested in attending the NDGOP State Convention as a delegate, click here. It is scheduled to be held March 27 – 29, at the Bismarck Event Center in Bismarck, ND.
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