North Dakota lawmakers wrapped up the last day of their 2017 session on Thursday last week.
Missing from their ranks? State Rep. Rick Becker, a Republican from Bismarck’s District 7.
Where was Becker? The capitol rumor mill placed him in Washington D.C. where he was attending meetings related to a potential 2018 Senate campaign. I spoke with Becker this morning about it, and turns out that’s accurate.
“I missed the last day of the session for meetings out in Washington D.C.,” Becker told me.
He said he had already rescheduled the meetings once band hadn’t expected them to clash with any legislative days.
Lawmakers missed their self-imposed deadline for completing their session in 70 days, and then missed a second deadline they set for themselves on day 74. They finally adjourned sine die on day 77.
“It looked like we were going to be done Tuesday,” Becker told me. “I had meetings scheduled for Thursday and Friday.”
He said that when it became clear that the session wouldn’t be wrapped up in time for him to make his meetings he checked with House leadership and they gave their “blessing” to the trip, Becker said.
“I checked with leadership and they consented,” he told me.
As for the nature of the meetings?
“I did a number of meetings, some of which were related to a run and some of which were not,” he told me, saying that those other meetings were related to some “other organizations I’m involved with.”
He defended missing the last day of the session by pointing out that the trip to D.C. was “not related solely to a Senate run” and that it was only day of this year’s 77 day session he missed, and just the second day he missed of the last three sessions.
Missed legislative days has been a political issue in past federal races in North Dakota.
During the 2014 cycle Democratic state Senator George Sinner, who had launched a House campaign against Congressman Kevin Cramer, attacked the incumbent for missing votes in Washington D.C. Only it turned out that Sinner himself had missed the last two days of the 2013 legislative session for a family vacation.
His attack on Cramer backfired. He ended up getting less than 39 percent of the statewide vote, and he lost re-election to his state Senate seat last year, though I’m not sure to what degree his missed days in the legislature played a role in those losses.
The incumbent in the 2018 U.S. Senate race is Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, someone widely seen as vulnerable to challenge in the 2018 cycle.
Democrats apparently see her as vulnerable too having already leaked fundraising numbers (albeit with most of the money coming from out of state) and launched something of a smear campaign against Cramer who is widely seen as another potential challenger.
In addition to Becker and Cramer, state Senator Tom Campbell (R-Grafton) and former Congressman Rick Berg have also expressed interest in a Senate run.
UPDATE: I initially wrote that Becker had missed just two days of the 2017 session. He contacted me to say that it was just two days of the last three sessions. Also, he said the meetings were scheduled in D.C. were scheduled for Thursday and Friday last week, not Wednesday and Thursday as I wrote. The post has been changed to reflect these corrections.