I’ve written a lot about North Dakota Democrats struggling to find statewide candidates (more on that below). It looks like they’re struggling in legislative races as well.
So far, according to the state party website, Democrats have held district conventions in ten odd-numbered districts (the odds are on the ballot this cycle). Of those ten, nine are currently controlled by Republicans (District 9, near the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, is a very “blue” district held by Democrat incumbents who are all running again; Republicans are unlikely to run any challengers there).
In those nine districts, representing 27 legislative seats, Democrats have exactly four candidates so far after the local conventions.
Here’s who is running for Democrats (and I’m giving them credit for candidates I’m told are running even though they haven’t announced publicly yet):
In District 3, which is in the Minot area, there haven’t been any official announcements from Democrats after the local convention, but Republicans tell me they’re certain former state Rep. Lisa Wolf is running again.
In District 29, in the Jamestown area, there have been no official announcements after the local convention, but politicos in the area tell me that Lori Carlson, a farmer who serves on a local school board, is running
In District 35, in Bismarck, Erin Hill-Oban (wife of state Democrat Party Executive Director Chad Oban), is running for state Senate while first-time candidate Darrell Miller is running for one of the district’s two House seats.
And…that’s pretty much it. Unless I’m missing people, but I don’t think I am.
In District 5 (Minot), District 37 (Dickinson), District 7 (Bismarck), District 47 (Bismarck), District 31, (south of Bismarck), and District 33 (northwest of Bismarck), Democrats have completed their local conventions and announced no candidates. Nor are there any names being rumored as candidates. So far, the Republican incumbents in these districts are running unchallenged.
Here’s why that’s bad: Democrats hold just 14 of 47 state Senate seats, and just 23 of 94 state House seats. There are 24 state Senate seats on the ballot this year, and 48 House seats. So far, in districts where Democrats have held local conventions, they’re letting 15 House seats go unchallenged and 8 Senate seats (if I’m doing my math right).
And it’s not like we’re early in the process. There are a total of 24 odd-numbered districts on the ballot this year. Democrats have held district conventions in ten of them so far, and their statewide convention is about a month away. The deadline for getting on the June Primary ballot is April 7th.
Democrats will likely be adding candidates to some of these districts after their conventions, so not all of these races will go unchallenged. And they have announced candidates in districts where there hasn’t been a convention yet. But it’s hard to see a candidate put in a race after the local nominating convention as anything more than a placeholder. Serious candidates, one would expect, would accept their party’s endorsement at the local convention.
Notice too that Democrats don’t have a full legislative slate for any of these districts fo far. Usually legislative candidates run together as a three-person team. Candidates who run on less than a full slate historically don’t fare very well.
These struggles in local districts emulate problems Demcorats are having statewide too.
Democrats have yet to put up a challenger for Rep. Kevin Cramer. This despite bold talk about roughly a half dozen candidates lining up to take him on back in October. State Senator George Sinner has said he might announce something at some point in the future, but so far has blown past multiple deadlines for an announcement he set for himself.
Democrats are having trouble with state-level offices, too. The Agriculture Commissioner, Tax Commissioner, Attorney General, Secretary of State and two Public Service Commissioners are up this year. Republicans have incumbents in all those slots (two of them appointed and on the ballot for the first time this year) but so far Democrats have only a Tax Commissioner candidate in Fargo attorney Jason Astrup who, to be blunt, isn’t well known in political circles.
Last year’s gubernatorial candidate for Democrats, Ryan Taylor, is making noises about running for Ag Commissioner, but so far he isn’t in the race.