North Dakota Democrats Reject Reform, Stick With Same Leadership After Disastrous 2016 Election Cycle


FILE PHOTO: Rep. Kylie Oversen, chairwoman of the North Dakota Democratic Party. (Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)

The 2016 election year was an awful one for North Dakota Democrats.

They saw not a single statewide candidate get over 30 percent of the vote while in the Legislature they lost their House and Senate leaders, their party chairwoman, and now have just nine seats in the state Senate and just 13 in the House.

So when it came time to pick the party’s leader for the coming election cycle, they obviously chose not to change a thing. Kylie Oversen, who contributed to the Democrat losses last year by losing her re-election to the state House, was elected chairwoman of the party again over the weekend.

Per a SAB reader who was in attendance, Oversen got about 54 percent of the vote. Here are the totals:

  • Oversen – 60 votes
  • Ruth Buffalo – 21 votes
  • JoNell Bakke – 18 votes
  • Casey Buchanan – 10 votes
  • C.T. Marhula – 1 vote

I interviewed Marhula about his bid to be chairman  on my radio show a couple of weeks ago (audio).

“We cannot be an east-of-I29 party,” he told me, referring to the interstate which runs north-south through the Red River Valley. “We cannot be an identity politics party. We cannot isolate on the universities in Grand Forks and Fargo.”

He got just one vote based on that platform, so I guess his answer from his fellow Democrats was yes we can.

I do think the 2018 cycle for Democrats will be a better one, though, despite their support for inept and ideologically hidebound leadership. It almost has to be better, right?

It seems impossible that the Democrats could see their legislative super minority shrink any further, and remember that Senator Heidi Heitkamp will almost certainly be running for re-election (she hasn’t announced it officially but c’mon, she’s running).

Heitkamp is nothing if not a savvy campaigner. With her political career on the line this cycle she’s going to expect a degree of competence from the state party which will probably pay dividends for at least some down-ballot candidates.

With Democrats at rock bottom, and really nowhere else to go but up, and with Heitkamp’s influence this cycle expect the liberals to have a better cycle in 2018 than they did in 2016.

Not that 2016 set the bar very high.