House Majority Leader Al Carlson Makes Himself Look Petty


North Dakota is a thoroughly Republican state, and it’s pretty much always been that way.

Since North Dakota gained statehood in 1889 Democrats have controlled the state House for a grand total of just four years, and the state Senate for just ten years. Of course, partisan definitions get a little fuzzy in North Dakota’s often turbulent political history. Maybe you could give the leftists credit for more years if you count those times when the Nonpartisan League (currently a part of the North Dakota Democrat party) was affiliated with the Republicans.

If you do, you can say that left-wing interests held the state House for a total of 12 years, and the Senate for 14 years.

Even with those expanded definitions, you’re talking about Democrats/leftists having control of House for just 9.5 percent of the time, and the Senate just 11 percent of the time, since statehood.

Put simply, voters in North Dakota have only very rarely entrusted Democrats to govern the state.

But here’s the thing: Some Democrats have always held office in the state, and as such it’s always been proper for them to have some level inclusion in governing the state. Which is why House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Fargo) makes himself look foolish and petty when he opposes appointing Democrats to interim committees chairmanships.

Today Legislative Management voted to fill 20 of 24 interim committee chairs with Republican lawmakers, with the other 4 seats going to Democrats. As Mike Nowatzki reports, Carlson opposed even those four appointments and suggested that the appointments were a quid pro quo arrangement between Democrats and Senator Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks).

Carlson questioned whether the appointments were tied to Holmberg’s election as chairman.

“Who knows whether they promised that support to get him elected chairman? I don’t know,” he said. “But either way, it’s wrong policy-wise to do that.”

Schneider said Democrats did stress the importance of bipartisanship in the interim.

“There’s no quid pro quo or trade or anything, but we thought Sen. Holmberg would be most likely to bring back that tradition, and the people of North Dakota will be well-served by that,” he said.

I’d be very surprised if there was a quid pro quo arrangement. I think Holmberg simply recognizes the wisdom, and the sound political thinking, behind allowing the minority party to have minority representation in interim committee leadership. Giving the liberals 4 seats out of 24 is commensurate with the relatively few legislative races Democrats have managed to win around the state.

But Carlson would rather have Democrats ostracized from interim committee leadership, and that’s not only wrong it’s bad politics. It hands Democrats a talking point. Another leverage point in their endless carping about the supposed abuses of the Republican supermajority.