2016-05-05Gubernatorial candidate Doug Burgum has doubled down (tripled down?) on his Obamacare-themed assault on his opponent, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

The Burgum campaign has even created an entire website dedicated to their argument that Stenehjem, who joined North Dakota to a multi-state lawsuit to overturn Obamacare, actually supports Obamacare because he sided with a group of Democrats in an amicus brief in the King vs. Burwell case.

The website buttresses a blizzard of mailers and broadcast ads which have descended on North Dakota voters making the same argument. To the right is a mailer a reader sent in to me.

For some reason I cannot fathom, perpetuating this gross exaggeration is where Burgum has decided to put the bulk of his campaign resources at the moment. Hey may have moved the needle initially on this issue, but as we saw in the 2012 cycle when Republicans tried to defeat Heidi Heitkamp by hanging Obamacare around her neck, this sort of thing can quickly reach a point of diminishing returns.

What would be a better use of Burgum’s time and resources is articulating for voters some actual policy positions.

Case in point, the letter below which Burgum and his running mate Mayor Brent Sanford sent to the Lignite Energy Council regarding their position on coal power and federal regulation thereof (the letter was also shared with  the EmPower Commission which has a meeting next week).

“The threat of a motivated federal government on the coal industry is real and we will use the full weight of the Governor’s office to support the industry which is such a key part of our economic fabric,” they write. “We have the deepest regard for the industry, the contributions it has made to our state, and its importance to the future of North Dakota. We are opposed to the Obama administration’s overreach on energy, including the Clean Power Plan, any efforts to impose ‘cap and trade’, and their war on coal and the fossil fuel industry.”

I know this is something I’ve needed to hear from the Burgum campaign. Energy is an enormous factor in North Dakota’s economy, and there is some anxiety among Republican voters over how he’d handle the policy surrounding oil and coal development.

When I asked Burgum about energy, and coal development specifically, back in January he was a bit more ambiguous:

“We’ve got all of these diverse energy sources, but 80 percent of the energy in our state comes from coal,” he told me. “Because we’ve got a dependency, we need to pay attention when the federal government starts setting standards. I’m for clean air, I’m for a clean environment, but it’s all about the pace.”

“I think it’s appropriate that we push back on things that are sort of executive mandates, but on the same time I want to work with the industry and say hey the customers want power and they also want clean air,” he added.

If Burgum were to begin communicating to the public what he communicated to the Lignite Energy folks he could probably win over some much needed support.

We’ve heard plenty from Burgum about why North Dakota Republicans shouldn’t pick Wayne Stenehjem. I don’t think we’ve heard nearly enough about why they should pick Doug Burgum.

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