It’s pretty unusual in state politics that the leaders of both of the state’s major political parties are stepping down from those positions to take a run at statewide elected office. First it was NDGOP chair (and state Senator) Kelly Armstrong announcing that he’ll be running for the U.S. House.
He’ll be making that announcement officially tomorrow, and he’ll also be on my radio show at 1:30pm.
Now it’s Democratic Party chair Kylie Oversen announcing a campaign for Tax Commissioner:
— Rob Port (@robport) February 20, 2018
Oversen posted this on Facebook just minutes ago:
I suspect this move from Democrats is motivated by a couple of factors.
First the incumbent Tax Commissioner, Ryan Rauschenberger, is probably vulnerable. The last time he was on the ballot he had to take weeks off to go into recovery after I broke the news that he was struggling with alcohol addiction. This his campaign for re-election this cycle is under the cloud of a DUI arrest and conviction from last year. He’d told me in an interview that his struggles with alcohol haven’t affected his job, but he’s going to have to make that case to voters.
Democrats probably want to be perceived as putting up a strong challenge to Raushcenberger. Whether or not Oversen can be a strong challenger remains to be seen
Especially given the other likely reason for this move. I suspect the Democrats are probably eager to get Oversen out of the party leadership position. In the 2016 cycle the Democrats didn’t see a single one of their statewide candidates get even 30 percent of the vote. At the local level the Dems lost, from already slim minorities, 7 seats in the state Senate and 11 seats in the state House. Among those losing were the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, as well as Oversen’s own seat.
During the 2016 election cycle I heard a lot of complaining from Democrats about Oversen’s leadership (or lack thereof). With Senator Heidi Heitkamp, the only Democrat to win on North Dakota’s statewide ballot since 2008, facing a strong challenger this cycle I suspect there are a number of rank-and-file Democrats who want to see someone other than Oversen leading their party.