Al Carlson’s Replacement as House Majority Leader Won by Promising to Keep Everything the Same

Rep. Chet Poller, a Republican from Carrington Photo provided by House Republicans

Last night the Republican caucus in the North Dakota House of Representatives picked their new majority leader.

The press release is below, but Rep. Chet Pollert of Carrington won the three-way competition over Rep. Mike Nathe of Bismarck and Rep. Dan Ruby of Minot.

The result is a bit of a surprise. Heading into the night what most were telling me is that Nathe was the favorite to be the new leader. “Lots of liars in the caucus. He thought he had the votes,” one Republican observer told me.

“I’m sure Nathe has the votes to get past round 1 on paper, but wouldn’t be surprised if 10 people had lied to him,” another added.

Nathe had been campaigning hard for the position, promising a lot of changes, and that may have done him in according to what one member of the caucus told me.

“The rumor is that Appropriations members and committee chairs were being called by one of the current chairmen that Nathe had been promising all sorts of people spots on Approps or that chairs were being shaken up, and that was effectively able to scare some of his supporters to Chet,” my source said. “That matches Chet’s speech where he basically said he was keeping committees as they were.”

When I first identified Pollert, before election day, as one of the candidates vying for majority leader he heaped praise on outgoing leader Al Carlson. “If [Carlson’s race] goes like I hope it does I will be supporting Majority Leader Al Carlson,” he told me at the time. “As far as I’m concerned right now, do I have an interest in the majority leader, sure do. But I would never run against Al Carlson.”

When I interviewed Pollert on the radio last week I asked him what changes he might make if elected majority leader. Outside of some not-very-specific things about better relations with the Senate chamber, Pollert didn’t indicate that he’d change much.

Which is apparently what helped him win the support of his caucus as leader.

Per the press release, the Assistant Majority Leader will be Rep. Scott Louser of Minot, and chair of the caucus will be Rep. Shannon Roers Jones of Fargo.

UPDATE: “I never once promised anything to anybody, chairs, committee spots etc. It was a rumor started by somebody out there. However during my calls I did talk about More openness, grooming new people and the need to take a hard look at some spots,” Nathe told me in response to the claim he had been promising shakeups.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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