In my most recent Sunday column I wrote about Governor Jack Dalrymple and the idea he’s checked out on the job.
That was first brought up by Democratic candidate for governor Marvin Nelson. “We are in a state of crisis, and it seems that our governor has left the room,” Nelson said upon announcing his campaign earlier this month.
But when I asked the three Republican candidates for governor about Nelson’s comments two out of three of them agreed.
State Rep. Rick Becker and Fargo businessman Doug Burgum (notably the honorary chairman of Dalrymple’s 2012 campaign) had tough words for Dalrymple:
“I believe what we’ve seen is leadership that is a little bit behind the curve,” state Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck and a gubernatorial candidate, told me.
“I’ve long said I would like to see leadership and the executive more proactive than reactive. I guess that’s cliche, but in this case, there’s a tendency to not want to admit where we’re at and to push off the necessary data to pretend we’re not in the place we are.”
Said Fargo businessman Doug Burgum to me, “North Dakota faces very challenging times, and it seems that many politicians in Bismarck are not facing the fact that North Dakota is at an economic and fiscal crossroads, with a shrinking economy, runaway state government spending, and a $1.1 billion — and growing — budget shortfall.
“If a CEO presented such a dramatic drop in revenue to his or her board of directors with a message of ‘everything is fine’, he or she would be quickly looking for a new job.”
Stenehjem, on the other hand, supported Dalrymple in his comments to me.
Today, Dalrymple is firing back at his critics in a column of his own:
During this election cycle, some would have us believe that North Dakota’s economy is falling apart. The facts say otherwise. Despite the downturn in commodity prices, North Dakota continues to have the lowest unemployment rate in the nation at just 2.8 percent, and we still have 13,000 job openings to fill today. Since 2007, North Dakota’s per-capita personal income has increased 5 percent a year, the strongest growth in the nation, even including the slowdown of the last three quarters.
The “some” Dalrymple is referring to is clearly Nelson, Becker, and his former campaign chairman Doug Burgum. They’ve all been pushing panic over North Dakota’s falling post-oil boom tax revenues, and Burgum specifically is already investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into taking that message to the state’s television screens.
This is quit a leap for Burgum. You expect Nelson, a Democrat, to be critical of our Republican governor. And Becker already had a reputation as a sort of maverick Republican lawmaker critical of his own party’s handling of budget issues.
But Burgum is burning some bridges. He needs to create dissatisfaction with the status quo among voters in order to bolster his campaign, but he also helped elect that status quo.