Once incumbent Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring got a primary challenger for the NDGOP convention, which convinced Democrat Ryan Taylor to enter the race, everybody knew it would be a competitive one.
And I think most people expected the race to focus on policy matters. Agriculture, obviously, but the Ag Commissioner also has a seat on the powerful North Dakota Industrial Commission which regulates oil and gas development in the state. So, obviously, oil and oil impact issues should be in play in the campaign.
But what is Taylor focusing on? Not oil, and not agriculture, but rather the turnover rate in the Department of Agriculture under Goehring.
Taylor’s first television ad of the campaign hit Goehring on it:
But it is interesting that Taylor is focusing exclusively on employee turnover in the Ag Department. Really, is there any part of the state government that hasn’t seen a huge amount of turnover during the oil boom era?
The health care industry has seen a turnover rate as high as 45 percent in the state. Other industries have seen turnover even higher. The various state agencies have complained, consistently, about staffing issues because there are so many other opportunities in the state.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Nick Archuleta, President of North Dakota United (the combined public worker/teachers union), has spoken out about turnover issues.
“Salaries for public employees typically lag behind the private sector,” he told the Associated Press in August. “When you take a look at the high turnover for state employees, we need just about every incentive there is to keep people.”
It’s telling that Taylor would use precious television advertising time – which comes dearly with eight ballot measures creating what is perhaps the state’s most expensive political advertising environment ever – to repeatedly hit an issue that isn’t even clearly Goehring’s fault.
It’s telling that Taylor isn’t talking about energy or agriculture issues. Perhaps, despite all the left-wing bluster about oil impacts, Taylor knows those aren’t winning issues.