Prominent New York Democrat Donates To Stenehjem Campaign


Wayne Stenehjem visits UND law school Friday afternoon . Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald

I’ve been hitting Fargo businessman Doug Burgum over support from Democrats for his gubernatorial campaign, so I guess it’s only fair that I do the same for his opponent Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

Yesterday the Stenehjem campaign filed a 48-hour campaign finance report (until primary day all campaigns now have to disclose contributions over $500 within 48 hours), and among the contributions was $4,000 from one Geraldine Laybourne.

Laybourne was the former head of Nickelodeon TV who co-founded the Oxygen network with Oprah. She has a long history of supporting Democrats and left-wing causes. She once described Hillary Clinton as “spectacular” and she’s a cousin to Stenehjem. In fact, she’s bragged about her family’s political influence in the state:

L.G.: You’re not going to run? I mean, if Hillary makes it—this is a real hypothetical—then there’s an open Senate seat, for instance.

G.L.: Not that! [Laughs.] Just don’t mention it around my husband. I used to joke about when I was going to run for Senate from North Dakota because my family is very plugged in in North Dakota. Very, very plugged in. My grandmother was the head of the Republican Party. Then my aunt was the head of the Republican Party. And my cousin is the attorney general. And another cousin is the head of the state senate, the majority leader of the senate. So if you need anything in North Dakota, please.

L.G.: But you’re from New Jersey, right?

G.L.: I summered in North Dakota. I come from two low-self-esteem states. I think it sets you up well for the entertainment business.

Stenehjem can no doubt defend this financial support from a liberal Democrat by arguing that there is a personal connection here. A familial connection, in fact.

But then Burgum can probably defend most of the support he’s gotten from Democrats the same way, pointing out that these are friends and business partners with whom he has a personal connection.

Which illustrates the difficulty in trying to extrapolate what a candidate stands for from the politics of those supporting him/her.

I’m still struggling with Burgum, though. The guy came into this race as something of a blank slate, and he has used that to his advantage I think painting a picture of a candidate that in a lot of ways is running to the right of Stenehjem.

In reality, I think both Stenehjem and Burgum are probably closer together on just about any given issue than either candidate would like to admit.

So far this campaign has been more about personality and posturing than substance.