Josh Gallion Represents a Real Conundrum for North Dakota Republicans

Republican state Auditor Josh Gallion

Auditor Josh Gallion is in Bismarck announcing his re-election campaign even as I type these words. He’ll be making a follow-up announcement in Fargo later today, weather permitting.

You can read his full press release below.

Despite being young, by political standards, and just finishing up his first term, there was some hesitation on the part of the candidate when it came to a re-election campaign. Earlier this year, the state Legislature stuck language into the Auditor’s office budget, gutting Gallion’s discretion when it comes to performance audits of state agencies.

Those decisions, under the legislation, would need ratification from a legislative committee.

The feathers he’s ruffled among Republicans won’t likely manifest in a serious challenge to his candidacy, and what would a Democratic candidate argue against him? That he’s too tough on the state’s Republican supermajority?

Subsequently, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has stated, in an opinion, that the language was likely unconstitutional. Gallion, for his part, says he’ll ignore the legislation.

If lawmakers don’t like it, they can file suit, I guess, and let the judicial branch settle the dispute. They haven’t so far.

Amid all that kerfuffle earlier this year, Gallion told me he was not sure if he wanted to run for re-election. I sensed that he felt ambushed by his own political party. The legislation mentioned above was passed by the Republican-controlled legislature (only a handful of Republican lawmakers in the House voted against it) and signed into law by Republican Governor Doug Burgum.

Now Gallion has decided to run for re-election, and it’s a good thing for those of us interested in putting duty-minded public servants in positions such as Auditor. For Republicans, it represents something of a conundrum.

Gallion, even as an incumbent, will still need the NDGOP’s endorsement. Would another Republican challenge him? That seems unlikely. Even if such a candidate could win over a majority of party activists at the state convention, which in and of itself is no sure thing, that candidate would also likely need to defeat Gallion in a statewide primary vote in June.

I’m assuming that Gallion would choose that route if he were to lose at the party’s convention).

What would that candidate’s platform be against Gallion? That he was too exacting in his reviews of the state’s bureaucrats and politicians?

Does anyone really think there’s an appetite for that message in the broader North Dakota electorate?

To the extent the average North Dakota voter is even aware of Gallion’s job performance – let’s face it, Auditor isn’t precisely a high-profile gig – they’re likely delighted with the job he’s been doing.

Gallion will likely cruise to re-election. The feathers he’s ruffled among Republicans won’t likely manifest in a serious challenge to his candidacy, and what would a Democratic candidate argue against him? That he’s too tough on the state’s Republican supermajority?

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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