Democrats chose a new chair for their party earlier this year, picking first-term lawmaker Rep. Kylie Oversen of Grand Forks. Now Republicans are working on who will lead their party in the 2016 election cycle and, unlike with Democrats, it’s something of a competitive process.
Which isn’t surprising given how marginalized Democrats are in the state.
Anyway, current NDGOP Chairman Bob Harms was running for another cycle at the helm but I’m told by NDGOP party sources today that he has withdrawn from consideration. That leaves state Senator Kelly Armstrong (R-Dickinson) and party activist Andrea Toman as the remaining candidates.
Former NDGOP Chairman Gary Emineth was rumored to have been thinking about running for another term as Chairman, but hasn’t been campaigning and didn’t respond to a text message I sent him asking if he’d be running.
Between the two remaining candidates, Armstrong is the odds-on favorite.
He would be an interesting pick for the party. He is a formidable fundraiser, and bridges a lot of ideological gaps between factions within the part. He’s got a solidly conservative vote record – he ranked as the second most conservative member of the Senate in SAB’s rankings – but a great deal of credibility with the so-called NDGOP “establishment.”
Also, with Democrats vowing to focus on legislative races in the 2016 cycle, Armstrong will likely serve as an effective antidote. As a lawmaker himself, you can expect the NDGOP to also put a great deal of focus on defending and possibly expanding their legislative majorities.
The final vote on chair will happen this Saturday at the NDGOP’s round-up event in Bismarck. Unless something unexpected happens between now and then, I think we can conclude that Armstrong will be the NDGOP chairman for the 2016 cycle.
Update: Here’s the email Harms sent out announcing his decision:
Subject: NDGOP Chairmanship
Date: Fri, 5 Jun 2015 09:50:57 -0500
Dear State Committee members,
Five years ago, I became a member of the State Committee and began serving as treasurer. I’ve been raising money to promote good government and elect Republicans ever since. Today, I want to let you know that I look forward to turning the reigns over to new leadership.
We have two candidates who are interested in serving as our Chairman. We are lucky to have people who want to serve the Party in that capacity. Serving as Chairman is a challenging, and rewarding experience. They are young, full of new ideas and energy. With the support of the State Committee and the Executive Committee they can execute a plan that will retain our majorities and our statewide elected officials.
I’ve enjoyed the last five years, have met many good people and have gained an understanding our party and party politics that I did not have five years ago. I look forward to helping promote core Republican values which translate into good government and to elect Republicans who reflect those values. I’ll offer a few closing observations and recommendations tomorrow.
I look forward to seeing you this weekend.
Robert W. Harms