Last week I spent some time talking with Fargo businessman Jack Seaman who will be on the statewide ballot this fall for a second time challenging Republican incumbent Kevin Cramer for the U.S. House.
Only in this cycle, there may not even be a Democrat in the race, putting Seaman in a position to perhaps set a record for votes cast for a Libertarian Party candidate in North Dakota. I asked Seaman if he was hoping that was the case. “I would invite that opportunity. I think I’d be stupid not to,” he said. “I think I match up very favorably with Kevin in a heads-up match up. I would love the opportunity to debate against him one on one and campaign against him one on one. Let the chips fall where they may.”
Seaman told me that the fade of North Dakota Democrats may open up opportunities for his party all over the ballot. Even for local legislative races which the Libertarians have eschewed in the past.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”We are going to have some legislative candidates this cycle, so we are getting the ball rolling there,” Seaman added. “I’d say we’re going to have half a dozen or more. I can’t tell you which districts they’re running in because I’m not involved in that.”[/mks_pullquote]
“I think what we have here is a sort of chicken or egg scenario,” Seaman told me about that strategy. “One is you build from small local races and build the party that way. The other, the one I’m behind, is you run as high profile races as possible and draw media attention.”
“We are going to have some legislative candidates this cycle, so we are getting the ball rolling there,” Seaman added. “I’d say we’re going to have half a dozen or more. I can’t tell you which districts they’re running in because I’m not involved in that.”
Much as with the statewide ballot, Democrats may give the Libertarians some openings by leaving some legislative races unchallenged. In the 2014 cycle the Democrats left 15 legislative races without a candidate. Seaman says this all adds up to opportunity for Libertarians.
“I’ve spoken to many prominent Democrats from the southeastern area of the state where I live and they’re in agreement that their party is in disarray,” he said. “They’re having a terrible time fielding candidates. That’s obviously true because they don’t have any candidates for statewide office yet.”
“I understand the challenge they’re facing; it’s not easy to recruit people, but still they’re the Democratic party. They should have an easier time of recruiting people than the Libertarians.”
You’d think that was true, but I’m not sure you can overestimate the incompetence of this current generation of Democrats.
As for his own race, Seaman says he learned a lot from the 2014 cycle.
“I learned that I need to be even more myself and not be afraid to call things as I really see them and say what I really think and feel,” he told me. “I think that was something I did last campaign that people appreciated, but I think I could do a much better job of it.”
“Specifically issue wise, I didn’t get a chance to get after the number one issue which is our country’s fiscal situation,” Seaman said when I asked which issues he thought he should be more outspoken on. “Our debt is out of control. Our leaders keep voting for budgets with big deficits. Our country’s fiscal situation is precarious. I think it’s the number one issue facing America today.”
Seaman says he also wants to spend more time meeting with voters. “As a business owner it’s hard to get away from your business, especially an extremely mall business like mine where I’m involved in daily operations,” he said. “I think the best thing I could do is get out there and travel the state and meet people one on one and shake hands. You just have to get out there and meet people in person.”
[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”I understand the challenge they’re facing; it’s not easy to recruit people, but still they’re the Democratic party. They should have an easier time of recruiting people than the Libertarians.”[/mks_pullquote]
So, why should North Dakotans vote for Seaman instead of Cramer?
“I’m the better option because I would not vote yes to an unbalanced budget,” Seaman told me. “I would not vote yes to blowing our sequester caps completely off. I would not vote yes to not just raising the debt ceiling but eliminating it. I would not vote yes to foreign interventions with no hope of victory. I would not vote yes for failed programs like the war on drugs.”
“I think pointing out Kevin Cramer’s flaws to the Republican base,” Seaman told me when I asked him what strategy he could use to peel votes away from an incumbent like Cramer. “I think there’s a certain segment of the Republican base who are frustrated with Cramer. But the biggest issue is I have to get the younger voters engaged. I have to get those voters engaged, and I think the Libertarian stance on social issues can get those people engaged.”
“I understand that I’m up against a very popular incumbent with a war chest full of money and an organization of the establishment,” Seaman added. “But anything can happen in politics.”
In the gubernatorial race things have gotten interesting for Republicans due to the announcement of another Fargo businessman, Doug Burgum, who is challenging state Rep. Rick Becker and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem for the nomination. Burgum, like Seaman, comes to the process with no previous electoral experience.
I asked Seaman if he felt Burgum’s presence on the campaign trail could impact his own race.
“I think it very easily good,” he told me. “The Burgum factor is the unknown factor here. What kind of influence is he going to have? What kind of campaign is he going to run? If someone like Doug Burgum can gain traction and appeal to voters statewide, I think I can latch onto that and ride that wave. So can the other Libertarian candidates.”
“This is going to be a huge election for North Dakotans,” Seaman continued. “We have a vibrant governor’s race. We have a third party which is coming to life and putting up candidates. I’m anxious to see how the voters are going to embrace third party, Libertarian candidates this cycle because it’s really the first time they’re going to be exposed to them.”
What is it about Libertarians that Seaman thinks could appeal to voters?
“I think it boils down to the message,” he said, “and the message is limited, small government, which leads to more individual freedom. I think the voters realize it’s time for something different.”