North Dakota Democrats May Be Regretting Bold Candidate Recruitment Talk


North Dakota Democrats may be regretting some of their bold talk about candidate recruitment from back in October.

“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. “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.”

More than two and a half months later, not a single one of those candidates has so much as filed to form an exploratory committee. This despite Democrats back in June touting (absent, notably, any specific details) polling they’d done which they claimed showed Cramer as vulnerable.

Valeu’s October email blast may have been about assuring party members that Democrats are actually going to run a candidate against Cramer in the 2014 cycle. After all, last cycle Democrats had both a US House candidate (Pam Gulleson) and a US Senate candidate (Heidi Heitkamp) in the race by early November.

MIXED FEELINGS: Nearly a month after saying he'd make an announcement about running for House, state Senator George Sinner is still feeling "mixed"
MIXED FEELINGS: Nearly a month after saying he’d make an announcement about running for House, state Senator George Sinner is still feeling “mixed”

But now in mid-January, Democrats still don’t seem to have a clear path forward for challenging Cramer. More than a month after Democrats said he’d be making a campaign announcement “next week,” the most likely Democrat candidate, state Senator George Sinner, says he’s still got mixed feelings about running.

“I’m kind of mixed on the whole thing,” he said. “I love what I’m doing here in North Dakota right now, although I feel that Mr. Cramer has not represented the people of North Dakota very well, so I feel that he’s somewhat vulnerable. And I think that somebody has to step up and I think take the lead for the party.”

Meanwhile, Democrat Executive Director Chad Oban trotted out this chestnut to explain away his party’s lack of candidates two and a half months after he was assuring the public of a packed field of would-be Democrat challengers:

“I think if you ask the average voters, ‘Are campaigns long enough?’ they would say they’re plenty long, even if a candidate gets in nine months before Election Day,” he said.

The thing is, forming a campaign committee early isn’t about the voters. It’s about hiring effective campaign staff. Building campaign strategies. And, perhaps most important of all, convincing the donors with the money that you’re a candidate who can win.

Through actions, if not words, Democrats seem to be all but conceding to Rep. Kevin Cramer in 2014.