One of the ironies of the 2014 election cycle is that North Dakota Democrats want to make what they believe is Republican mishandling of the oil boom a cornerstone of their campaign.
What is ironic about that is they have very little support in western North Dakota. Meaning their grandstanding on oil impact issues tends to be a bit contrived. Manufactured outrage, if you will, catered to people who live outside of the realities of the oil boom. In other words, when Democrats talk about oil issues they’re really targeting voters in the eastern part of the state.
Which speaks volumes, doesn’t it?
Democrat party Chairman Bob Valeu actually spoke candidly about this problem after I asked him about it at a recent Chamber of Commerce event in Bismarck. I was surprised at the honesty when Valeu acknowledged that Democrat politics hold little appeal for the majority in western North Dakota.
As we came down to the primary ballot deadline earlier this year, I wrote often highlighting the problems Demcorats were having with candidate recruitment in oil patch districts on the ballot this cycle. Ultimately Democrats were able to find candidates for 11 of the 15 races in the oil patch (Districts 1, 31, 33, 37 and 39), but now three of those candidates have dropped out of the race:
Senate candidate Barbara Vondell withdrew from the Senate race in District 1 in Williston. House candidate Karen N. Nelson and Senate candidate Keith Fernsler pulled out of the District 37 races in Dickinson, according to the secretary of state’s office.
Vondell’s withdrawal leaves Republican Brad Bekkedahl unchallenged in the District 1 Senate race. Sen. Rich Wardner will be unchallenged in District 37.
Democrats still have one candidate, Mandy Kubik, in the running against two Republicans, Rep. Vicky Steiner and Mike Lefor , for the two District 37 House seats.
To be fair, these weren’t very serious candidates to begin with. More people Democrats had pushed into running in order to avoid already bad optics over a paucity of western North Dakota candidates. Though I wonder why they dropped out. Why not take the race to the conclusion? Dropping out only gives the beleaguered statewide Democrat messaging another black eye.
Still, the question has to be asked: If Democrats are right about oil issues, where is their political support in the oil patch?
Anyway, by my count, that now leaves Democrats with 18 races unfilled out of 72 total statewide, or 25 percent. In the oil patch, Democrats have left 7 of 15 races unfilled, or over 46 percent.
Overall, Democrats have 54 candidates including 10 incumbents.
Republicans have left only 6 of 72 races unchallenged, or about 8 percent. Overall they have 66 candidates including 49 incumbents.
Here’s a fun fact: Democrats could win every single legislative seat they don’t already hold this year and still not have a majority in either house of the Legislature.
My full list of 2014 legislative race candidates.