North Dakota State Auditor Bob Peterson, a Republican, has announced that that five terms in that office is enough. He will not be seeking a sixth term in 2016 for an office that Republicans have held for 120 years.
That’s not a typo. The last time Democrats elected a candidate to the auditor position was 1893 when Arthur W. Porter held the office. In fact, Porter is the only Democrat to have held the office since statehood, and he served for exactly one term.
It’s not for want of trying that Democrats have been unable to hold this position. The Democrats ran some of their stars for the position, including former Senator Kent Conrad and current Senator Heidi Heitkamp.
Even more interesting is that North Dakota has had an Auditor named Bob Peterson for 48 years, since 1967 when the current Peterson’s father Robert W. Peterson first won the office. North Dakotans have been voting for Bob Peterson for Auditor for generations.
Fun fact: During the elder Peterson’s 1989 campaign NBA coaching legend Phil Jackson, who was coached by Peterson at Williston High School, appeared in a campaign commercial for him. No joke.
Anyway, now that the current Peterson is stepping down, it means there will be an open race for the seat for the first time in 20 years. Democrats are promising that they’ll find someone to run for the position:
Robert Haider, executive director of the North Dakota Democratic Party, said it’s time for a change after more than a century and two generations of officeholders from the same family.
“For every office that’s open, we’re recruiting the strongest candidates we can for those positions,” he said.
That’s a little hard to believe given that state Senator George Sinner, who was the U.S. House candidate for the Democrats last cycle, was saying just a few weeks ago that his party might not even nominate a candidate for governor.
“Someone has to do it. I don’t know who that someone would be,” he told talk radio host Steve Hallstrom. “The Democrats may not nominate somebody. That’s a real possibility.”
It’s a little hard to believe that the Democrats are going to be focused on aggressively pursuing a strong candidate for a down-ballot race like state Auditor, an office they haven’t been able to win during the lifetime of anybody drawing breath today, when it’s an open question as to whether or not they’ll nominate a candidate for governor.
It’s not an inconsequential position – given that Democrats are politicizing ethics issues as a way to get traction against Republican majorities the Auditor position would be a great one for them to hold – but I think we can probably bet on the NDGOP’s streak of electing Auditors to continue.