As I noted previously, the Andrew Sadek case – now that it has been elevated to national prominence by 60 Minutes – may be, fairly or unfairly, a chink in the armor of wildly popular Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.
Stenehjem, of course, has launched his campaign for governor and his political enemies and opponents no doubt see the case the public perception of it as an opening.
In Stenehjem’s defense, his office was not overseeing the drug task force Sadek was working for, and while Stenehjem did oversee the investigation of the task force after the fact and largely clear them of wrongdoing, Stenehjem did ask for – and received – funding from the Legislature to put a BCI agent on the task force for oversight.
But in the world of campaign politics if you’re explaining you’re losing, and Stenehjem’s opponents want to make him explain. Except, one of his opponents is doing so in a way that kind of makes it seem like he’s conceding victory.
According to this report from Mike Nowtazki, Rep. Rick Becker who is campaigning against Stenehjem for the NDGOP nomination, says he’s planning on introducing legislation to address cases like Sadek’s in the next session.
But if he’s in the next session he won’t, you know, be governor:
Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, said the legislation he plans to introduce in 2017 would lower the offense levels for various marijuana crimes, get rid of mandatory sentencing and increase the threshold for drug dealing charges.
He said the confidential informant reforms would be modeled after Rachel’s Law in Florida, named after a 23-year-old woman who was shot and killed while acting as a police informant in 2008. It would include provisions from a failed attempt this year to strengthen that law.
Becker said he’s working on the legislation with the parents of Sadek, a 20-year-old North Dakota State College of Science student who was a drug informant before he went missing in May 2014. About two months later, his body was found in the Red River near Wahpeton with a gunshot to his head.
In Becker’s defense, this sort of issue is right in his wheelhouse. He is unabashedly libertarian – there was some gossip about Becker shifting over to be the Libertarian Party candidate for governor, something Becker said was “highly unlikely” – and law enforcement/drug policy reform are wide planks in the libertarian platform.
I’m just not sure they’re the sort of issues that can help Becker win the NDGOP nomination, or a statewide election.
“I don’t think we can forget we have a problem with drugs in North Dakota, and we cannot lose focus on that,” Stenehjem told Nowtazki. Statements like that make me cringe a bit as someone who would like to see a governor that is a bit less of a drug warrior, and a bit less reflexively defensive of law enforcement.
But voters who think like I do on these topics are probably a small percentage of the voters who will actually show up at the polls to cast a ballot.
UPDATE: Becker emails to clarify that he isn’t conceding his 2016 campaign. “When I say that I have plans to introduce [the legislation], it includes the possibility that I will sponsor it myself if I do not secure the nomination for governor, as well as the possibility that I will find someone to sponsor it for me if I do secure the nomination for governor,” he said. “In either case I am not sitting idly by.”
“Lastly let me be clear on a a small tidbit of information that you seem to be very intrigued with,” he added. “I will not be running on the Libertarian ticket, before or after the convention or the primary.”