Drama In NDGOP As Woman Challenges Gender Roles In Party


Yesterday we got news that NDGOP Chairman Bob Harms was withdrawing his bid for another term in that position, leaving only state Senator Kelly Armstrong and activist Andrea Toman as the remaining activists. But then Toman switched her bid to run for party Vice Chairman, which is a position currently held by former Insurance Commissioner Jim Poolman.

Emphasis on the man.

You see, the NDGOP has two vice chair position. There is a Vice Chairman and a Vice Chairwoman. You can read about the definitions of these positions in the NDGOP rules, but basically the duty of the Vice Chairman is to “preside at all meetings of the State Committee” when the Chairman is unavailable while the duties of the Vice Chairwoman is to “assist the State Chairman, act as liaison between the Republican Party and the Republican Women of North Dakota, and to perform such other duties as the State Chairman may from time to time request.”

There is also a strange provision for vacancies in the Chairman position whereby the Vice Chairman succeeds the Chairman if that person is a woman, and the Vice Chairwoman succeeds the Chairman if that person is a man.

It’s all a little strange.

Anyway, I spoke with Toman about her bid and her position is that the Vice Chairman position is and should be gender-neutral under current rules. The position of some others in the party, on the other hand, is that the two sub-Chairman positions are clearly defined by gender and that the rules can’t simply be ignored.

Toman wanted to be Vice Chairman, not Vice Chairwoman.

As a personal aside, I think it’s a little silly that the party has these gender-specific roles. As though women need a special position just for them because they can’t compete for the regular Vice Chairman position.

That’s an antiquated idea which runs contrary to conservative ideas about meritocracy.

Anyway, here’s what happened: Toman’s bid to be Vice Chairman was initially ruled out of  order, but then Poolman (to his credit) delivered a speech calling for the state committee to override Chairman Bob Harms and allow her to run.

Harms was overruled,  and the ballot was between Toman and Poolman with Poolman ultimately winning.

But clearly, something needs to change about this set up, and a number of Republicans I’ve spoken to say they’re committed to a discussion about change. Something that’s bolstered by the overwhelming vote to overrule Harms (who, in his defense, was merely following the rules) on letting Toman run.

Democrats like to make hay out of the “war on women” narrative, and having a second highest ranking NDGOP position open exclusively to men doesn’t help debunk that narrative.

I can understand the intention of the status quo, but women aren’t delicate flowers who need special carve outs in order to compete with men. There are a lot of very smart and very capable women within the NDGOP who would make fine leaders, and all positions in the party should be open to them.

And on that token, the probably should probably think about getting rid of the Vice Chairwoman position and creating something like a second Vice Chair. That would put an end to gender-specific positions in the party.