How Much Will George Sinner's Name Help Him On The Ballot?


Like it or not (and I’m not sure there’s much to like in the idea of voting for someone because you recognize their name), name recognition is a big deal in politics. Voters given a choice between a name they know and a name they don’t are more likely, despite all the cynicism about political incumbents, to vote for the name they know.

Which is something North Dakota Democrats are asserting about George B. Sinner, who received their endorsement to run for US House against incumbent Kevin Cramer over the weekend. Sinner shares his name with his father George A. Sinner who was Governor of North Dakota from 1985 to 1992:

FARGO, N.D. (AP) – North Dakota Democrats say they expect the candidate at the top of their ticket to build on his name recognition.

The party concluded its state convention Saturday by endorsing George B. Sinner for the U.S. House of Representatives. He’s the son of former two-term North Dakota governor George A. Sinner.

Former longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy says Sinner has a statewide name, but many people don’t know him and his record in business and most recently in the Legislature.

The thing is, George A. Sinner hasn’t been on a ballot in North Dakota since 1988. That’s 26 years. He hasn’t held public office since 1992. That’s 22 years.

In a state with a growing, and increasingly younger, population how much is a name from a generation ago really going to matter? To the extent that many North Dakotans know George Sinner’s name, it’s going to be in a very academic sense. As a factoid about North Dakota history, not something that’s terribly relevant to today’s politics.

It’s not likely to be something that will overcome Cramer’s own recognition. Rep. Cramer was elected by a strong majority in 2012, and won election to the Public Service Commission in 2004 and 2010 with more than 60 percent of the vote each time.