Democrat Insider: State Party Engaged in “Backstabbing and Double Dealing” With Some Candidates


TOM STROMME/Tribune North Dakota Democratic-NPL party chair Rep. Kylie Oversen (D-Grand Forks) speaks to delegates attending the 2016 state convention in Bismarck on Friday afternoon.

Yesterday I wrote a post, based on comments from a past statewide candidate for the North Dakota Democrats, which was critical of the state party’s handling of their state convention this weekend, among other things.

My source called the convention a “celebration of incompetence.”

Today another Democrat active in state politics contacted me to say that yesterday’s post caused a lot of buzz in Democratic circles, and that he hopes that conversation continues. This man is a party insider who has contributed to Ben Hanson’s congressional campaign and the campaigns of three Democratic legislative candidates. He also plans to contribute to the campaign of David Thompson, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, who got the party endorsement yesterday.

Here’s what he sent me:

Your blog’s “celebration of incompetence” description of the Democratic-NPL’s convention in Grand Forks this weekend was a frequent conversation topic at Bud Sinner’s funeral, and I hope this continues at the convention itself. Few people disagreed with the analysis. The primary argument was about whether the Democratic-NPL’s dirty laundry should be aired in public. Of course it should. This is what democracy looks like! These comments are meant to be constructive criticism, not Democrat-bashing.

What are we talking about when we talk about incompetence?

Example 1: No one was answering the phone at the Democratic-NPL headquarters in Bismarck this week. I understand that there was convention preparation work to be done in Grand Forks. But hasn’t the office staff heard of call forwarding? Voice mail?

Example 2: Normally, the North Dakota Democratic-NPL party provides lists of expected convention delegates, and their contact information, to candidates. Candidates use this information to try to lock up delegate commitments before the convention is held. Ben Hanson, despite repeated requests, didn’t get a party delegate list. He did have information, which he gathered himself, about the people who attended Democratic district conventions. Because of this little trick by the state party office, Ben and his supporters ended up calling dozens of people who weren’t state convention delegates. Mac Schneider, who did not attend a single district convention, didn’t have that problem. He had a party-provided delegate list. Ben Hanson and John Grabinger were sandbagged. I don’t know whether to call this incompetence or corruption.

Example 3: The U.S. House race is now scheduled as the last convention event Saturday afternoon, after former Vice President Joe Biden’s speech. The Democratic chairwoman, Kylie Oversen, says she believes all of the other slots for statewide office will be filled by then. Normally, when there are multiple candidates for a high-profile race – as there are for the U.S. House contest — and there aren’t any candidates for other statewide offices, the losers in the high-profile race consider running for something else. The attorney general endorsement, for example, could have been placed after the U.S. House race to give Mac Schneider the option to run for attorney general if he comes up short in the House contest. But the endorsement schedule’s clumsy organization precludes that. The two U.S. House losers can suck eggs.

Example 4: Kylie Oversen, who has kept digging the hole the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party has been in, gets her reward via a party endorsement to run for tax commissioner – while she is still serving as chairwoman of the party, the person who has the job of running the state convention. It might also be helpful to know that Oversen, who is a fledgling lawyer, is working for Mac Schneider’s law firm in Fargo. Can you say conflict of interest?

The Democratic Party has been in worse shape in its history. The party can make a comeback, but not if its leadership insists on backstabbing and double-dealing, and its members tolerate these kinds of abuses.

UPDATE: More from the convention:

Last night the convention delegates were invited to a “pub crawl.” Democratic candidates for state office were assigned as hosts in various Grand Forks bars, which the delegates could visit and, presumably, talk to the candidates. Normally, candidates host hospitality suites at the convention headquarters hotel, but that is an expensive proposition – candidates have to buy booze, soft drinks, etc. from the hotel, at a steep markup. This was envisioned as a cost-saving alternative that would be more fun.

Problem is, except for Ben Hanson, no candidate showed up at his/her pub! Heidi Heitkamp, for example, was nowhere to be found – she couldn’t be bothered. She apparently believes she should be able to show up, be coronated, and leave, without engaging in the grubby business of talking to delegates. In the meantime, her staff is putting on a full-court press in favor of Mac Schneider’s candidacy for the House.

I’ve got to give Hanson credit – he is working the convention floor, gathering support. He is taking on the Democratic leadership, such as it is, and trying to win. Heitkamp and Schneider are hoping that the delegate sheep will do as they’re told. It would be heartening if they rejected these tactics and endorsed Hanson, who would be the better candidate anyway.

It might be best for the party if Heitkamp loses in November. Then the Democratic-NPL can start fresh and quit worshipping at the altar of Schneider, Heitkamp and the former Democratic congressional delegation. Dorgan, Conrad and Pomeroy don’t live in North Dakota anymore. They show up at conventions to make a few speeches, dispense some head-pats, and leave. They don’t do any work at party-building. They’re not like Art Link, Bill Guy or Bud Sinner, who actually stayed in North Dakota and continued trying to make a difference. Democrats: Quit kissing the asses of D/C/P and move on.