So far the about North Dakota’s 2016 election cycle, at least as far as the statewide races go, is one in which Republicans can tout strong incumbents and robust competitions between strong candidates for every office while Democrats struggle to find candidates willing to say they’re running.
No doubt in an attempt to upend that narrative a bit, Democrats have been dripping out announcements for legislative candidates. Today in a email blast from the state party executive director Robert Haider touts three of those candidates in a communique with the somewhat defiantly headlined, “Let’s Talk About 2016.”
It’s not a bad strategy, really, if we’re just talking about influencing public perceptions. When your problem is candidate recruitment, flooding the zone with legislative campaign announcements can put some polish on an otherwise ugly situation.
Anyway, let’s talk about these candidates, as Haider commands.
Marijo Peterson will be seeking the Democrat nomination for the state House in District 22 (Cass County). Currently Republican incumbents Pete Silbernagel and Wes Belter hold the House seats in that district, and Republican Gary Lee holds the Senate seat. In 2012 both House members won election pretty handily (House races are a free-for-all with the top two vote getters in a district taking the seats), though Belter pulled in fewer votes than Silbernagel. Perhaps Democrats see Belter as vulnerable.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]When your problem is candidate recruitment, flooding the zone with legislative campaign announcements can put some polish on an otherwise ugly situation.[/mks_pullquote]
But it will be a tough climb for Peterson. Republicans have held District 22 since at least 1999 (which is as far back as the info on the Legislative Assembly website goes). In fact, it was current Governor Jack Dalrymple’s district before he left the Legislature to be Lt. Governor under John Hoeven. But despite that electoral success, according to Minnesota State-Moorhead Political Science Professor Mark Johnson’s index of legislative district partisanship, District 22 is smack dab in the middle with an “even” rating in Republican versus Democrat advantage.
Chris Rausch is a Bismarck attorney (and apparently a SAB fan judging by his issues page) seeking the Senate seat in District 30 (Bismarck). But that’s a district which is even stronger for Republicans than District 22. Johnson’s index shows the district as the 12th strongest for Republicans out 47. Currently the Senate seat in that district is held by Ron Carlisle, but he has announced that he’s not running for re-election. Carlisle won election in 2012 with over 62 percent of the vote. The House members from District 30 are Mike Nathe and Diane Larson, both Republicans who won election by wide margins in 2012. I suspect Republican would have to nominate a really, really bad candidate in District 30 to lose.
One place where Democrats may have a fighting chance is in District 44 (Fargo). Pro-abortion activist Karla Rose Hanson is who the Democrats are running there, and the liberals already have one seat in the district. Rep. Josh Boschee will be an incumbent on the 2016 ballot, after being the top vote getter in the District in 2012, and given the mountains of national money he’s likely to get as North Dakota’s first openly gay lawmaker means it’s unlikely he’ll go down to defeat. Hanson will be setting her sights on incumbent Rep. Blair Thoreson, a strong conservative who has to be feeling as though he’s on an island with the far-left Boschee on his left and wishy-washy Republican Tim Flakoll as his running mate in the Senate.
Expect liberal interests to dump a lot of money on this race, though ubiquitous Thoreson is both well-known and well-liked in state political and won’t go down easily.
Honestly, in the 2016 elections it would be at all surprising to see Democrats pick up a seat or two, if only because Republicans are so dominant in the Legislature that they really have no place to go but down.