It Seems Like More of the Same From North Dakota Democrats


Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is cheered on by delegates at her nomination for the United States Senate Saturday at the ND Democratic convention. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

The North Dakota Democratic Party held their state convention over the weekend, and the message they’re promoting through press releases and commentary from media surrogates coming out is one of renewed vigor.

But where’s the evidence for that?

The party brought more delegates to this convention, sure, but there wasn’t much improvement over their 2016 cycle. That year the Democrats seated 453 delegates from around the state. In the three-way House nomination race a total of 612 delegates voted.

To put that into perspective, the NDGOP had nearly 1,700 seated delegates at their 2016 convention, and with multiple competitive races on the slate for this year’s convention, they’re likely to meet or exceed that number again.

Mac Schneider won the House endorsement, but he won it ugly. Democrats tell me he was pushed into the race just two weeks before the convention by Senator Heidi Heitkamp, who wanted her preferred candidate on the top of the ballot with her this cycle, and Heitkamp’s minions worked the convention hard in Schneider’s favor.

I wrote about some of the reports of dissatisfaction I received from Democrats over the weekend (contrary to a rumor being spread by the Heitkamp camp, I did not plant fake delegates at the convention to report to me) but you needn’t take their word for it. Hanson’s terse, one-line response to Schneider’s endorsement speaks volumes, as does the fact that he isn’t conceding the race yet and may push it to the June primary:

Schneider joined the race early this month, while Hanson has been on the campaign trail since August. Grabinger said he would support Schneider’s run, but Hanson’s campaign didn’t rule out the possibility of a primary election challenge.

“Mac ran a hell of a campaign and I congratulate him on his victory,” Hanson said in a one-sentence statement.

Heitkamp got her candidate in Schneider, but not without alienating a faction of her own party. And it’s not clear how compelling a candidate Schneider is to begin with.

Let’s not forget that the former Senate Minority Leader is a former Senate Minority Leader because voters in his own District 42 cast him out of office last cycle.

Meanwhile, of the six executive branch offices on the statewide ballot this cycle, Democrats had to draft candidates at the convention for three of those races (Attorney General, Public Service Commission, and Agriculture Commissioner).

It was a last minute scramble for Democrats to fill all the races on the ballot, just as in previous cycles.

Cycles which didn’t end well for the Democrats.

Anything is possible. Maybe 2018 is the year North Dakota Democrats could finally start to get some traction with voters in the state again. They certainly have their strongest candidate in Heitkamp at the top of the ballot, and in Fargo state Representative Joshua Boschee they have a real contender for Secretary of State. But I suspect, come election day, not much will have changed for the Democrats despite the conspicuous enthusiasm of this weekend.