Who Are North Dakota’s Most Conservative Lawmakers?


Who are the most and least conservative members of North Dakota’s state legislature based on the 2019 session?

The folks at the American Conservative Union want to tell you. They’ve ranked the lawmakers based on their votes on pieces of legislation selected by the ACU as bellwethers.

I’m always a bit dubious about these sorts of rankings. I used to rank the state lawmakers as well, based on their votes on a slate of legislation selected by myself and some friends, but I stopped doing it.

Who is to say the slate of bills I choose is the right way to define conservatism in a given legislative session? Also, the why of a given lawmaker’s vote on a particular measure can be complicated. Sometimes a good bill might have amendments made to it which are objectionable to a lawmaker, for instance. Sometimes the issues themselves are just complicated.

Legislation related to abortion is an excellent example of this. A pro-life Republican might have a principled reason for voting against an abortion bill. One can oppose abortion while not simultaneously thinking every single anti-abortion bill is good policy.

But, for what it’s worth, this is the ACU’s idea of who is and is not conservative among North Dakota lawmakers.

You can read their full report below, but here are the top-level findings. Three Republican lawmakers were recognized for “conservative excellence” with several other Republicans recognized for “conservative achievement.”

No lawmakers were singled out for being part of the “radical left.”

The report says the Senate is about 60 percent conservative while the House is at about 70 percent. Which is in line with how those chambers are widely seen.

The most liberal Republican Senator, per the report, is state Senator Judy Lee (R-Fargo) at 50 percent. The most conservative Democrat is Senator Jim Dotzenrod (D-Wyndmere) at 38 percent.

In the House, the most liberal Republican was Rep. Tom Beadle (R-Fargo) at 48 percent while the most conservative Democrat was Rep. Tracy Boe (D-Mylo) at a surprising 63 percent. In fact, Boe scored higher than about a half dozen House Republicans did.

Anyway, here’s the full report for your perusal. I would encourage you to study the bills the ACU ranked on before drawing any hard conclusions about the rankings themselves.

In the aggregate, the findings aren’t all that surprising to me, at least from one perspective. North Dakota is often talked about as this deeply-red, ultra-conservative place. That’s really not true. North Dakota is far more moderate than either the state’s conservatives, or the state’s eternally disgruntled progressives, might like to admit.

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