Five Lawmakers, Including Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate, Miss Roll Call Vote at Special Session

Eliot Glassheim formally announces his kickoff for his Senate campaign at the town square in Grand Forks, N.D. on July 14, 2016. (Meg Oliphant/Grand Forks Herald)

The legislature convened for a special session this morning, and five state lawmakers were absent. At least for the attendance votes in the House and Senate chambers.

The most notable absence was Rep. Eliot Glassheim who, in addition to representing District 18 in the state House, is currently the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate challenging Republican incumbent John Hoeven.

“He’s not,” Glassheim campaign spokesman Daniel Tick told me when I asked if Glassheim was in Bismarck this morning.

Asked if Glassheim would be attending the special session at all, Tick said “we’re not sure.”

“He’s been feeling under the weather,” Tick told me. “He came down with an infection.”

Glassheim missed a significant amount of time during the 2015 regular session due to his health, but upon accepting his party’s endorsement for the Senate race back in April he said his health was good:

The 78-year-old former bookstore owner has served in the state House since 1993 and also served during the 1975 session. He announced in January he would not seek re-election in District 18, after a hospital stay during the 2015 session for what doctors believed was a mild stroke.

Glassheim has been treated for lung cancer, but he said his latest scan was “very good.”

“The oncologist said no real visible signs of cancer. I’m feeling good,” he said.

It’s a little sad to see Glassheim, a widely respected figure in state politics, trying to convince us with a straight face that he’s a serious candidate for federal office when he’s clearly a stand-in because thoroughly marginalized state Democrats couldn’t recruit a candidate healthy enough to do the job if elected.

I hope Glassheim gets better and stays healthy, but I don’t think it’s unfair to be a little skeptical of his ability to handle the rigors of a six year term in the United States Senate.

The other four lawmakers who missed the roll call vote this morning were:

  • Rep. Kris Wallman (D-Fargo)
  • Rep. Rick Holman (D-Mayville)
  • Rep. Bob Skarphol (R-Tioga)
  • Sen. Lonnie Laffen (R-Grand Forks)

I’ve tried to contact each of these lawmakers by phone but couldn’t reach any of them. I’ve sent them all emails as well, but so far haven’t received a response.

I should note that missing the roll call vote doesn’t necessarily mean these lawmakers are missing the special session. It could be that they showed up a little late. For the House members, in particular, there may not be a lot to do today anyway given that the one bill under consideration during this special session will start on the Senate side.

I’ll update this post if/when I receive a response from these lawmakers.

UPDATE: Senator Lonnie Laffen contacted me via email and provided this explanation for his absence:

I go on vacation once per year every year on this week. It takes a year to plan and involves 7 other couples. The plans were not able to be changed. I looked at trying to fly back but we are on motorcycles in northern Canada and my wife had no way to advance a motorcycle.

I lead a very difficult schedule and it’s not very flexible for short notice changes. I let leadership know that if they chose this week I would not be able to make it.

UPDATE: Grand Forks Herald reporter John Hageman is covering this as well, and Rep. Holman got back to him with an explanation for his absence. Apparently he’s on vacation in Norway:

Rep. Rick Holman, D-Mayville, was on a previously planned trip to Norway and will be unable to make it back for the special session, he said by phone.

“I reported into every one that mattered, including the Republicans,” he said. “They know why I’m not there.”

UPDATE: Rep. Bob Skarphol says he’s traveling out of state on personal family business:

Some time prior to the Governor’s decision to call a special session my wife and I purchased airline tickets to be out of state to address a building family issue. As the session drew near the issue became more pressing and I made the choice to follow through with addressing the family matter. In my world, family comes before politics.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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