Much as they did last election cycle, North Dakota Democrats plan on making the impact of the Bakken oil boom on the state an issue in their campaigns. Already we’re seeing their statewide candidates look to make oil impacts a wedge issue, and Democrats have been attacking the Republican-dominated state government’s handling of oil issues for years now.
But is that argument getting traction in the actual oil patch? Judging by the way the state’s legislative races are showing up, not really. In fact, Democrats have managed to recruit exactly zero candidates in legislative districts representing the state’s oil patch with all local district conventions completed and less than two weeks to go before their statewide convention.
Below is our list of legislative candidates who have announced their races so far based on communications with local party officials, news reports of announced campaigns and the Secretary of State’s candidate list (if you see any errors or missing candidates email me).
There are five odd-numbered legislative districts in the oil patch region (map here) that are on ballot this year: Districts 1, 31, 33, 37 and 39. All of them have a full slate of Republican candidates running, and zero Democrats announced.
If we count the urban districts in Minot and Bismarck as being “oil patch” districts, we add five more: Districts 3, 5, 7, 47 and 35. Of those, all have a full slate of Republican candidates, and just one has Democrat candidates. That’s District 35 where Erin Hill-Oban is running for Senate, and Tracy Potter and Darrell Miller are running for House.
That speaks volumes, doesn’t it? Democrats will talk a lot about oil and energy policy this year, but the lack of Democrat candidates in the oil patch tells us their arguments aren’t getting much traction where that policy has the most impact.
Democrats are doing better in eastern legislative races, but they’re still at a major disadvantage. Overall there are 72 individual legislative races this year: 24 for Senate and 48 for House.
For those 72 races, Democrats have just 26 candidates. Meaning that as of today, Democrats are leaving a little less than 2/3’s of all the legislative races unchallenged. By comparison, Republicans have 58 candidates leaving just 14 races uncontested.
There will likely be more candidates – the deadline for getting on the primary ballot to run in the general election with a party endorsement is April 7th – but I think we can count on a significant number of these districts having no Democrat candidates.
Update: Now that I think of it, none of of the Democrat statewide candidates are from the west either. PSC candidates Todd Reisenauer and Tyler Axness are from Fargo as is House candidate George Sinner. Attorney General candidate Kiara Kraus-Parr is from Grand Forks. The only Democrat statewide candidate from the “west” so far is Agriculture Commissioner candidate Ryan Taylor who is from Towner. About 50 miles east of Minot which itself is only on the edge of the oil patch.
How are North Dakota Democrats going to make a case about the impacts of the oil boom when they have exactly zero people on the ballot, anywhere, who are actually from western North Dakota?