Rumors: Democrats Considering Former Lt. Governor Candidate Ellen Chaffee For Governor Race

ellen chaffee

UPDATE: Per Chaffee in the comments, she’s not running. She claims nobody was asking her to do so. I’m not sure that’s true, based on what I’ve heard, but whatever. Take yet another potential candidate for Democrats off the table.

You know that tired old saw – the one usually attributed to Albert Einstein even though he never said any such thing – about the “definition of insanity” being the repetition of something while expecting different results?

I think the cliche may apply to North Dakota Democrats given what I’m hearing

Now, to be fair to our friends on the left, they’re desperate for candidates. But I’m told they’re considering tapping former university president Ellen Chaffee to run for governor this year. It’s just a rumor, but it’s a reliable one.

If Chaffee is their candidate, Democrats would be giving North Dakotans more of what they’ve been voting against in large majorities.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Chaffee represents the shrill leftward cant which has caused Democrats to slide into the political wilderness in recent years. Winning, though, isn’t the point for North Dakota Democrats.  They’re just looking for warm bodies to put on the ballot.[/mks_pullquote]

In 2012 former lawmaker Ryan Taylor was the Democrat nominee for governor. He campaigned against Republican handling of the state’s energy issues. He did rather badly, losing by 19 percentage points to Governor Jack Dalrymple. Taylor’s running mate in that race? Ellen Chaffee.

In 2014 Taylor ran for Agriculture Commissioner, a position which like the governor has a seat on the North Dakota Industrial Commission which regulates oil and gas development in the state. Taylor did rather badly in that race too, losing by 14 percentage points to not-particularly-inspiring incumbent Republican Doug Goehring (who faced a primary challenger backed by the North Dakota Farm Bureau) and actually managing to pull in almost 4,000 fewer votes than he did in 2012.

A key volunteer and adviser to Taylor’s campaign who at one point made headlines when she instigated an open records dispute with the Industrial Commission? Ellen Chaffee.

Since the 2014 cycle Chaffee has kept herself busy, chumming around with a reporter for the New York Times who wrote a hit piece on North Dakota’s handling of oil-related issues that was, in turn, the basis for that John Oliver skit that had the state’s progressivists all atwitter late last year. One key facet of that story? The idea that Chaffee’s good friend Taylor was somehow punished for his campaign against Dalrymple with the elimination of his legislative district.

One problem with that accusation, however, which the Times was forced to correct when I pointed it out, is that redistricting was completed during a special session in 2011 before Taylor even announced his campaign. The new district lines were drawn long before even that.

Still, it was easy to see Chaffee’s hand in the Times reporting. She and her husband were even referenced in the article as mineral rights owners.

Chaffee has been involved in the 2016 election cycle already. She was organizing former Agriculture Commissioner Sarah Vogel’s now-defunct campaign. Now she’s in charge of giving back all the political contributions.

But could Chaffee herself run? “I think they are pushing her hard,” my source tells me.

If she did run, the money Vogel raised – over $57,000 – could be dumped into Chaffee’s own campaign committee.

But could Chaffee win? I think the answer is a pretty robust no. Chaffee represents the shrill leftward cant which has caused Democrats to slide into the political wilderness in recent years.

Winning, though, isn’t the point for North Dakota Democrats. They’re just looking for warm bodies to put on the ballot.