If you’ve been following The Minuteman lately, then you’re familiar with the fact that Governor Doug Burgum is making a concerted effort to defeat conservative candidates in key races across the state. I first wrote about this in late February and then again earlier this week. If you’ve not read those articles, I highly recommend that you do so.
Unfortunately, it appears Burgum’s quest may involve more than those races I’ve written about already. We’ve now discovered information that draws a strong connection from Governor Burgum to a movement of unseating District 8’s incumbent, State Representaive Jeff Delzer (R). And not only that, but the circumstances of it all raises some interesting questions (more on that in a bit).
As for the race in District 8, Delzer is a farmer/rancher who’s been one of the more fiscally conservative voices in the House for more than 25 years. He chairs the Appropriations Committee and is viewed by many as one of the more powerful individuals in the legislature. With Rep. Vernon Laning (R – District 8) stepping aside after serving two terms, newcomers David Andahl and Dave Nehring announced their plans in January to challenge Delzer. Bob Wheeler — a small government constitutional conservative — also got into the race. And when the dust settled at their March 10th District Convention, Andahl and Nehring came out victorious as the endorsed candidates.
With Delzer and Wheeler deciding to continue on to the primary, we’re now getting a clearer picture of who’s backing Andahl and Nehring. And this is where it gets interesting.
Voters in District 8 have received mailers advocating for the election of Andahl and Nehring. These mailers were paid for by Dakota Leadership PAC. That probably means about as much to you as it did to me when I first read it. But look at this:
As you can see, the filing date for this PAC is February 10th— exactly one month prior to the District 8 endorsing convention. But look who’s listed as its “Registered Agent”— Robert Lauf.
By now, you’re probably wondering who Robert Lauf is. As you can see here, Lauf — a graduate of NDSU — was hired by Doug Burgum in November of 2015 to be Political Director during Burgum’s campaign for governor. After Burgum won the governor’s race in 2016, Lauf became Burgum’s Policy Advisor. He served in that capacity until August 2018.
In August 2018, two things changed for Robert Lauf. He became Senior Advisor to Governor Burgum and somehow ended up on the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Board of Trustees.
Remember, at that point, Burgum hadn’t even delivered his Executive Budget Address yet. You know, the same address in which he recommended that the legislature approve a $50 million “investment” into the “Legacy Project” known as the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library. That address wouldn’t come until four months later — December of 2018 — which was just prior to the start of the 2019 Legislative Session.
So, how and why did a young Burgum staffer like Robert Lauf end up on the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Board of Trustees? The short answer to that, at this point, is we don’t know.
But get this— According to Lauf’s own LinkedIn account, his time as Governor Burgum’s Senior Advisor recently ended in March— the same month in which District 8’s endorsing convention occurred. Coincidence?
As an additional note to all of this, Lauf isn’t the only Burgum connection to the efforts of Dakota Leadership PAC. Information shown on the North Dakota Secretary of State’s website shows Levi Bachmeier as their Treasurer. Bachmeier also worked on Burgum’s 2016 campaign, was an advisor to the governor, and served as Policy Director until he was hired by West Fargo Public Schools to be their Business Manager in August of 2019.
When I wrote earlier in the week about Burgum’s continued quest to defeat conservative candidates, I shared an interesting observation. Each conservative he’s opposing this primary season — who has served in the legislature — voted against the presidential library. And guess what? Rep. Jeff Delzer is no exception.
Not only did Delzer oppose the $50 million for the library — which a majority of his cohorts ultimately supported — but he spoke strongly against the idea during floor debate on the issue. His comments are worth listening to. North Dakotans — present and future — will likely one day look back and wish others in the legislature had listened to him. But I digress.
Was it just coincidence that Robert Lauf, as a Senior Advisor to Governor Burgum, ended up on the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Board of Trustees— a position he holds to this day? Is it just coincidence that Lauf — who was apparently still Burgum’s Senior Advisor in February — also became the Principle Agent of the PAC seeking to oust Rep. Jeff Delzer? Could it be that Doug Burgum has had a hand in all of it?
To me, what distinguishes Delzer from the other candidates Burgum has sought to defeat is his position. As a long-time member of the legislature and Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Delzer is respected by his colleagues in the House. Burgum will need some of those legislators in order to push through whatever agenda he may have in the 2021 session. Openly trying to defeat Delzer could be politically problematic for Burgum. Which might explain why it’s Lauf and Bachmeier who are doing it via a PAC instead.
I get it that politics can be a nasty game. And Governor Burgum certainly isn’t the first elected official to attempt utilizing his office to gain political victories. Is that what’s taking place in District 8? You can draw your own conclusions, but one thing is for certain— former Burgum staffers are trying to take out Rep. Jeff Delzer.
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Here’s the timeline of events described above:
November 2015 – Robert Lauf hired as Doug Burgum’s Political Director
December 2016 – Lauf hired as Governor Burgum’s Policy Advisor
August 2018 – Lauf Hired as Governor Burgum’s Senior Advisor
August 2018 – Lauf Joins the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Board of Trustees
December 2018 – Governor Burgum Delivers Executive Budget Address and Recommends $50 million for the Library
April 2019 – Legislature Approves $50 million Endowment for the Library
January 2020 – Andahl & Nehring Announce Candidacies for State House
February 2020 – Paperwork Filed to Create Dakota Leadership PAC with Lauf as Registered Agent and Levi Bachmeier as Treasurer
March 2020 – Lauf exits as Burgum’s Senior Advisor
March 2020 – Andahl & Nehring beat Delzer & Wheeler for District 8 Endorsements
Examples of Andahl/Nehring Mailers in District 8: