Last weekend, the North Dakota Farm Bureau launched a challenge against sitting Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring at the NDGOP state convention in Bismarck. It was a challenged that was primarily inspired by the Farm Bureau disagreeing with Goehriing’s actions on a variety off issues, however, was also linked to behavior that Goehring himself has admitted was unprofessional and inappropriate at work.
Setting aside the policy issues that the Farm Bureau had with Goehring, I think we can all agree that the behavior of Goehring is not the sort of behavior that is appropriate by an executive in North Dakota Government. Many times those of us who pay attention to politics tend to forget that these people who are elected to head executive branches are not just politicians but also the defacto CEO of organizations that are responsible for millions of taxpayer dollars. When you have elected officials who behave in the way that Goehring has admitted he did, it puts the taxpayers at risk for having to pay out millions in lawsuits and lost productivity.
However, over the weekend, the NDGOP voted 624 to 245 to endorse Goehring for reelection over challenger Judy Estenson. I found it very interesting, so I decided to reach out to some of my GOP friends who were at the convention and find out why they had supported Goehring despite his unethical behavior.
I found three primary responses to this question. First, some delegates had not heard about the allegations (I guess not everybody reads the Say Anything Blog). Second, some who had heard the allegations decided that they were not really all that bad. These people tended to be the type of people who, in general do not have much of a problem with harassment in the workplace. Finally, a lot of people did not feel that Judy Estenson was qualified for the job.
Now I am not going to say that I agree with this response (but then again I am not likely to be a NDGOP state delegate anytime soon), but many felt that Estenson’s career as a part-time nurse and part-time partner on her family Farm did not qualify her to be the Ag Commissioner. They felt that while Goehring’s allegations were pretty bad, the answer was not to replace him with somebody who was less qualified to manage the office.
So I am wondering if the North Dakota Farm Bureau did not drop the ball when they did not find a more qualified challenger to Goehring? I do think that Estenson’s work as a mother and a nurse is very important, however, I suspect that if the Farm Bureau had found somebody who had been on the statewide ballot before, or who had a more established career as an executive, the vote to re-endorse Goehring would have been less of a route.
However, luckily, the North Dakota Voters will have a chance to vote for an Agriculture Commissioner candidate who has a diverse background in the business world, the political world, and the agriculture world. They type of candidate who is very qualified to be the CEO of the North Dakota Agriculture Commission.