Many North Dakotans have already early voted. Yet, Tuesday is our state’s Primary Election. When it comes to legislative and state-wide races, it’s actually a nomination process, not an election. Technically the election happens in November. Semantics I suppose.
Unless you’re completely disconnected from statewide politics — in which case I’d really prefer you not be voting — then you’ve probably heard about Governor Doug Burgum using his wealth in an effort to defeat conservatives. Not only have major news outlets in the state covered the issue, but it’s even drawn national attention. Why? Because apparently other governors don’t do such things to members of their own party.
This isn’t exactly a new development. Burgum fired up his Dakota Leadership PAC in 2020 and spent more than $3.2 million of his own fortune doing so. Obviously final numbers aren’t in yet for 2022, but pre-primary totals show the governor dumping nearly $1 million in for the June Primary.
Joining Governor Burgum in his effort to defeat conservatives is former John Hoeven campaign manager and long-time President of Odney Advertising, Pat Finken. The influential establishmentarian is Chair of an organization known as Brighter Future Alliance. Finken’s tactics are disgusting. He carpet-bomb’s mailboxes with mailers that contain complete misrepresentations of candidates he wants to defeat. All with the hope of swaying votes of the uninformed.
The modus operandi of Governor Burgum is very similar to Finken’s— slam voters in key races with misleading campaign material and hope that people take the information at face value.
Let’s face it. Burgum’s willingness to spend his own fortune, in an effort to significantly influence these races, has changed politics in North Dakota. It wasn’t long ago that campaigns like these were done on shoe-string budgets. Not anymore. Sure, hard work is still important— door knocking, parades, meet and greets, etc. But it’s become exponentially more difficult for the “little guy” to compete when he has limited funding and is hitting doors one by one, while Dakota Leadership PAC is spending the governor’s fortune to reach voters through mass mailings. And by the way, how’s the little guy supposed to effectively set the record straight when those same mass mailings distort who he is? Pointing this out isn’t whining. It’s reality.
The message being sent to legislators by our state’s Chief Executive is a very clear one— oppose him and he’ll do whatever he can to use his wealth to target and crush you. It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances to be sure. Voters certainly shouldn’t forget that bloated budgets, record spending, and no meaningful tax relief are what we’ve gotten out of the deal.
Especially problematic is the fact that Governor Burgum is using his wealth and political influence to stack important boards with his own people. For example, the Board of University and School Lands is made up of the following positions:
- Governor Doug Burgum
- Secretary of State Al Jaeger
- Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler
- State Treasurer Thomas Beadle
- Attorney General Drew Wrigley
While Baesler took office in 2012 — four years prior to Burgum becoming governor — it’s well-known that she’s his gal. Burgum endorsed and pushed for her reelection. He also sunk part of his fortune into getting Beadle elected in 2020— and defeated a conservative to do it. He appointed Drew Wrigley after the death of Wayne Stenehjem. With Al Jaeger finally retiring, the governor is now backing State Representative Mike Howe for Secretary of State over the conservative grassroots candidate Marvin Lepp. If Howe wins the primary, he’ll undoubtedly be the victor in November and Burgum will have taken control of the entire School Lands Board. This same board manages more than $5.7 Billion in assets.
I could go on, but I won’t.
What’s your prediction? Will big money prove effective in buying North Dakota’s primary election?
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- North Dakota governor spends against members of own party in primaries | The Hill
- North Dakota Secretary of State – Campaign Finance Online (nd.gov)
- Is Former Campaign Manager for Senator Hoeven a Pedophile? – The Minuteman Blog (No, Pat Finken is NOT a Pedophile.)
- Marvin Lepp for North Dakota Secretary of State – With a humble heart I proceed. (leppfornd.com)
- Board of University and School Lands | Trust Lands