Is Rick Berg Running For Something Again?

rickbergThe short answer to the headline question is no, he’s not.

I’m certain that’s what Rick would say if you asked him, and certainly that’s what the sign outside of the hospitality room he ran at the recent NDGOP convention here in Minot said. If Rick Berg was running for anything in 2014 we’d have heard it by now. The party’s convention is over. The deadline for the primary ballot has come and gone.

He’s not running.

But what if he’s running for something in the future?

That’s what a lot of Republicans are asking me after the convention. Especially since Berg, you know, had a hospitality room at the convention. Berg was the only non-candidate to run a hospitality room in Minot.

In January of last year, shortly after his last vote in the US House, I interviewed Berg about what the future holds for him (video here). Naturally, I asked him if he’d ever run for public office again.

“At the end of a legislative session,” he told me recalling his decades of service in North Dakota’s state legislature, “if you ask people if they’re going to run for the legislature again and they say yes then they’re not a good legislator.” Berg said he was “excited to get back to creating jobs by helping businesses grow” in the private sector and getting more involved “out west” in North Dakota’s oil patch, but that he “certainly” doesn’t “have any plans” to run for higher office again.

But while he said he didn’t have any plans to run again, he didn’t rule the possibility that he might make some plans. Which brings us back to the hospitality room. That seems like a very nice and gracious way to keep your name in the minds of Republican activists in the state.

So, if Berg were to run, what would he run for? Here’s what will be on the ballot in 2016 (in addition to the legislative and local offices which seem unlikely targets for Berg):

  • Governor and Lt. Governor
  • Public Service Commissioner (Julie Fedorchak is running to have her appointment confirmed, whoever wins between her and Democrat Tyler Axness will have to run again in 2016 at the end of the term)
  • State Auditor
  • State Treasurer
  • Insurance Commissioner
  • Superintendent of Schools
  • US House
  • US Senate

Berg isn’t likely to challenge Senator John Hoeven for his seat. Berg could run for the House if Cramer loses this cycle, but barring some major scandal or shift in the political winds it seems unlikely that his Democrat challenge George Sinner, who dithered for months before finally backing into a race in which he was already an underdog, is going to get much traction.

That leaves the Governor’s office, and that’s intriguing.

Jack Dalrymple was elected in 2012 to a term of his own after moving up from Lt. Governor after John Hoeven was elected in 2010. He surprised many who didn’t think he’d run in 2012, and he may surprise everyone again by running in 2016. I’m told that Dalrymple’s campaign has already called dibs on campaign space at the NDGOP headquarters in Bismarck for 2016, and many delegates felt Dalrymple was in campaign mode during the convention in Minot.

Of course, it’s an open secret that current Lieutenant Governor Drew Wrigley wants to move up to Governor in the future. If Rick Berg has more aspirations for public office, could he be getting in line for governor too?

One of the problems North Dakota Republicans face – if you can call it a problem – is that there are so many of them holding elected office there is something of a logjam when it comes to open offices they can run for.

Regardless, I didn’t buy for a moment the caveat on Berg’s hospitality room sign claiming that he’s not running for something. I think he is, but we’ll have to wait until the 2016 cycle to find out for what.

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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