Plain Talk: In second debate, Democratic-NPL ag commissioner candidate says vote for the Republican

MINOT, N.D. — Work around politics long enough, and you’ll hear everything. Including a Democratic candidate for statewide office saying you ought to vote for the Republican.

Fintan Dooley, who was endorsed by the North Dakota Democratic-NPL this spring to take on three-term Republican incumbent Doug Goehring for agriculture commissioner, says you ought to vote for the incumbent.

“I’m not smoking any pot,” Dooley said on this episode of Plain Talk, which featured a debate between the two candidates moderated by myself and former Democratic-NPL executive director Jamie Selzler.

“He’s actually accomplished what he says he’s accomplished,” Dooley said, adding that he’s even gotten permission from Goehring to hunt on his land.

Dooley was also sharply critical of his party during the debate, bemoaning the “rough treatment given to Mark Haugen,” the U.S. House candidate the party sent packing in favor of independent candidate Cara Mund. “The Democrat Party needs a captive breeding program,” he said.

But that’s not to say that the candidates don’t have areas of disagreement. Dooley, who has worked as an attorney in North Dakota since 1976, has been a passionate activist for lands affected by oil and gas development, including so-called “salted lands” that have been harmed by brine spills.

Goehring argued that the spills happened in the past, under old EPA regulations that were predicated on now-outdated science, but Dooley rejected that argument, saying the state has to do a better job of protecting the land going forward, restoring land already harmed.

But in many other areas, the two candidates were very much in alignment. Goehring weighed on the controversial sale of farm land to tech industry billionaire Bill Gates, saying he understands some of the consternation given Gates’ sometimes hostile attitudes toward production agriculture, but that ultimately private land owners have a the right to sell to who they wish.

Goehring says the bigger problem is the number of North Dakota landowners who are selling out to out-of-state buyers who only want to use that land for recreation and take it out of agriculture industry entirely, something Dooley agreed with.

Both candidates want North Dakota’s corporate farming ban rolled back. At least for animal agriculture. Dooley said he’s aware of family-owned dairy operations that may have to close down because the latest generation of the family isn’t interested in the business, and it’s illegal to bring in outsiders. “They should be able to incorporate” and get investment from non-family members, Dooley said.

Both are skeptical of high-profile efforts to bring carbon capture and sequestration to the state.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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