The 2016 election cycle was an unmitigated disaster for North Dakota Democrats. They lost every single statewide race in veritable landslides. Not a single one of their statewide candidates got over 30 percent of the vote.
In the legislature they managed to turn a very small minority presence into a tiny presence losing 7 seats in the Senate and 11 in the House, leaving the party without enough elected members of the Legislature to cover all of their committee assignments.
Among the losses were former Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider and former Rep. Kylie Oversen.
Oversen, as it happens, is also the party’s chairwoman. And for some reason, she wants another term in office according to the Grand Forks Herald:
Chairwoman Kylie Oversen, a Democrat from Grand Forks and former state legislator, will seek reappointment to her seat. The chair lost her re-election as a representative for District 42 in November to Republicans Jake Blum and Emily O’Brien.
“There’s a lot of new energy and excitement. We have a lot of new people at the table,” Oversen told the Bismarck Tribune, a media partner of Forum News Service.
Oversen will face a challenge from Grand Forks resident C.T. Marhula and Casey Buchanan who is currently the chair of the District 8 Democrats (that’s northeast of Bismarck).
What I don’t understand is why Oversen would want to run for another term as party chair. Or why North Dakota Democrats would want her there. Oversen tried to blame Democratic losses on the wave of support in rural America for Donald Trump, but I’m not buying it.
Under Oversen’s leadership the party was extremely disorganized. The candidates recruited for statewide and legislative offices were uninspiring, at best, and downright cartoonish in some instances. There is plenty of grumbling in liberal circles about the party’s leadership in the past cycle, and the grumblers have it right.
I don’t think 2016 was ever going to be a banner year for North Dakota Democrats, but it didn’t have to be a bloodbath either.
I suspect there’s interest in leading the party into the next cycle because there is a lot of opportunity to do better. For one thing, it’s hard to imagine Democrats doing any worse. For another, Senator Heidi Heitkamp will almost certainly be on the ballot running for a second term, and that’s going to be a lot of national money and attention to the state. The next party leader can expect to ride on Heitkamp’s coattails and get credit for, at the very least, not losing any more ground to Republicans.
Unless that leader is Oversen, I’m afraid, who represents the rabidly ideological wing of her party which is far out of touch with most voters in the state.
I doubt very much that Democrats want advice on the future of their party from the likes of me, but believe it or not I do believe in the marketplace of ideas. I’d like to see Democrats get back to a point where they’re at least competitive, if not actually in control of any policy.