North Dakota’s Democrats Might Actually Have an Interesting Candidate Not Named Heidi Heitkamp


During most recent election years North Dakota’s Democrats have offered up to voters a menu of utterly uninspiring candidates. A sort of coalition of the coerced.

People with no chance of winning pushed into campaigns to spare the state party the embarrassment of unfilled races.

When former state Rep. Ben Hanson, fresh off of losing his seat in the Legislature by coming in last place in his legislative campaign, announced his campaign for the U.S. House I think most political observers were bracing themselves for another cycle of the same from the Democrats.

But maybe not.

At the end of this profile of Aaron Krauter, who just recently retired from being the state director for North Dakota’s Farm Service Agency, is something kind of interesting:

Though Aaron Krauter and has returned to working on his farm, don’t expect him to only be focused on his own crops.

“I’m going to be involved in public policy in some way, shape or form,” he said. “There’s a 12-month period where I can’t do work that directly impacts the USDA and that comes up in January. There’s some things in the future that I’m thinking about.”

Krauter spent about two decades in the state Legislature, and in 2000 was Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s running mate in her failed gubernatorial campaign.

“He would be a good candidate [for the Democrats],” a prominent North Dakota Republican told me over the weekend.

I think that’s right.

North Dakota Democrats have struggled with being associated with a national party that is simply too far to the left in its politics for most in our state. They’ve also been stung by a generation of younger Democrats who just can’t figure out how to win at the ballot box. Probably because smarmy social media messaging is no replacement for persuasion.

But Krauter is from a different generation of Democrat. He has deep roots in the agriculture industry, and in his politics seems to subscribe more to the prairie populism of Heitkamp than the left wing progressivism that many others in his party embraces.

That’s a good sign, because Heitkamp is the only Democrat to win on the statewide ballot in North Dakota since former Congressman Earl Pomeroy was elected to his last term in 2008.

That’s almost a decade ago now.

I don’t know if Krauter will run, but it sure seems like he wants to as soon as his federal cool down period is over.

What office would he target if he does?

Congress would be a good bet. Democrats desperately want to keep Republican incumbent Kevin Cramer from jumping into a Senate race against Heitkmap, and a strong challenger for the House seat might do the trick.

Agriculture Commissioner might be another good bet. It fits in with Krauter’s work with the FSA over the last eight years, plus it would give Democrats a seat on the powerful Industrial Commission which (among other things) regulates oil and gas development in our state.

Either way, if Krauter gets into a race, the 2018 election cycle will be a whole lot more interesting.