I had the opportunity to talk with someone close to incumbent North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer earlier this week. I learned two things.
First, Cramer’s people feel that Democrats have given up on getting state Senator George Sinner into the race. We’re now more than a month past Sinner telling the media that he had made a decision about the race. At the time most in political circles took those comments to mean that a campaign announcement from Sinner was imminent. They now appear to be the words of a reluctant politician who is feeling pressure to run but doesn’t really want to. A firm known to do a lot of work for Democrat campaigns has reserved internet domain names for Sinner, and as of right now SinnerForCongress.com redirects to the North Dakota Democrat party page, but who knows what that means.
I’m told that Cramer’s people think Demcorats may be refocusing their efforts on getting Obama-appointed USDA Rural Development Director Jasper Schneider into the race. It had been rumored last year that Schneider was looking for a way to extricate himself from his government job in order to run against Cramer. Indeed, when Democrat party officials started throwing Schneider’s name around as someone interested in running, they may have violated the Hatch Act restrictions on political activities by federal employees.
Regardless, early March in the election year is pretty late in the game for a federal candidate hoping to unseat a popular, though first-term, incumbent. It would be late in the game even in a state not as Republican as North Dakota is.
The second thing I learned is that Cramer’s people are baffled by the lack of a candidate.
It’s hard to blame Cramer’s people, or anyone else for that matter, for thinking that North Dakota’s House race would be hotly contested by Democrats. “We already know that almost everyone is disgusted with Congress today,” Dem party Chairman Bob Valeu said in an email blast sent out to party faithful just before Halloween last year. “And most North Dakotans know that we deserve better than having Kevin Cramer sit in the U.S. House as our state’s only representative. I’m delighted to report that at least five outstanding leaders have approached our party and are seriously considering challenging Cramer.”
It seemed as though every political communication sent out by North Dakota Democrats last year mentioned Rep. Kevin Cramer and his supposedly “extreme” policies. In November and December last year, according to my email archives, North Dakota Democrats sent out eleven email blasts to supporters mentioning Kevin Cramer. Since the 1st of the year, though, Democrats have sent out just one with Cramer’s name in it on February 18th.
That may evidence of a political party that has written this race off. Which is something I’ve confirmed in talks with Democrats in the state. Some insist that they’ll have a candidate soon, but others admit that a credible challenge to Cramer seems unlikely this year, and most of the Democrats I’ve spoken to express frustration with party leadership over touting strong candidate recruitment efforts that don’t seem to have borne much fruit.
The Democrats have their statewide convention in Fargo at the end of the month.