Over the weekend a bit of a slap fight broke out in the NDGOP’s gubernatorial nomination race as Fargo businessman Doug Burgum used a television ad to accuse his opponent Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem of supporting Obamacare, and Stenehjem responded with an ad of his own suggesting that Burgum is a big fibber.
At issue is Stenehjem’s opposition to the King vs. Burwell SCOTUS case which aimed to pull Obamacare apart by declaring subsidies for insurance policies purchased through the federal exchange to be illegal. Burgum’s ad said Stenehjem “was the only Republican Attorney General to support Obamacare,” and Stenehjem points out in his ad that he actually joined North Dakota to the state-based lawsuit to overturn Obamacare.
I think Burgum is stretching the truth when he says Stenehjem supports Obamacare. That’s clearly not the case.
On the other hand, it doesn’t look great for Stenehjem. By opposing Burwell with a group of Democratic attorneys general he failed to stand up for the rule of law. Congress did not give the executive branch the authority to subsidize policies purchased through the federal exchange. Stenehjem has said he was concerned about the impact the success of Burwell would have on North Dakotans who would lose subsidies for their health insurance, calling such an outcome “unconscionable,” but more unconscionable is letting the executive branch ignore the law as written by Congress.
But setting all that aside for a moment, what’s interesting is that even as Burgum runs a marketing campaign attacking Stenehjem’s track record as attorney general he has and continues to praise Stenehjem for his work in that position.
He praised Stenehjem’s work as attorney general during the NDGOP gubernatorial debate last month:
Burgum says he supports ND Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem finishing his term. Gets laughter from the crowd #NDPol
— KX News – Bismarck (@KXMB) March 4, 2016
More recently Burgum told the Grand Forks Herald that he looks forward to working alongside Stenehjem if he’s elected:
As I have said, I would look forward to working with Wayne as he completes the remainder of his term as attorney general. I don’t have a thing about Wayne personally; like a lot of people have said, it’s easy to like Wayne Stenehjem. I do have a view that someone with my background would make a better CEO of the state.
So Burgum is arguing that Stenehjem is a good attorney general, but that he himself would make the better governor.
Which is all well and good, but doesn’t jibe with the narrative of Stenehjem’s record as attorney general promoted by Burgum’s advertising.
Burgum’s attack ad from last week literally says Wayne Stenehjem is “not who we thought he was.” And even as that ad was running, Burgum was telling the Herald that he doesn’t “have a thing about Wayne personally.”
Give me a break, Burgum. If you’re going to go into attack mode, then own it.