Socialist State Lawmaker May Be Considering a Challenge to Republican Congressman Kelly Armstrong

Rep. Ruth Buffalo, D-Fargo Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune

It’s fall in an odd-numbered year, and that means we need to start thinking about who may and may not be running for elected office in this election cycle.

I’ll be honest with you, the news on that front is a little slow in North Dakota, owing mostly to the dominance of the NDGOP and the decline of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL. Candidate recruitment has been a severe challenge for the Dems in recent election cycles. They’ve sometimes failed to find a candidate for a given race, and when they do find candidates, they’re often something less than inspiring.

The race for North Dakota’s at-large U.S. House seat may turn out to be interesting. Reliable sources tell me state Rep. Ruth Buffalo, a Democrat from Fargo and member of the Democratic Socialists of America, may challenge Republican incumbent Kelly Armstrong. I’m told she’s been spending a significant amount of time in Washington D.C., which is typical behavior for candidates considering a run for federal office.

A statewide race is going to put a spotlight on her politics, and while her ideological inclinations might endear her to the editors of the New York Times and The Nation, they won’t do her any favors with the North Dakota electorate.

Taken at face value, you wouldn’t think Buffalo would be able to mount much of a challenge. She hasn’t even completed one term in the state House. She just finished her first legislative session earlier this year. Her claim to fame is that she’s a Native American lawmaker – the second female Native American to hold a seat in the state legislature, as it happens – who beat out a voter ID-backing Republican.

But that incumbent was former state Rep. Randy Boehning. A flawed candidate and someone even most Republicans will agree hadn’t been spending a lot of time in his legislative district in recent years. He didn’t exactly mount a vigorous campaign.

Buffalo didn’t knock off a strong candidate, and she didn’t beat him by much at that.

Still, she has been something of a darling in national left-wing circles. She has been profiled in the New York Times and, just earlier this month, in The Nation.

That’s a lot of attention for someone who barely one a local legislative race.

Could Buffalo beat Armstrong if she were to run?

The short answer is no, she can’t.

The longer answer is that Buffalo is way, way too far to the left of the average North Dakota voter. Her election in that Fargo-area legislative district was probably due in no small part to just how little name recognition she has. A statewide race is going to put a spotlight on her politics, and while her ideological inclinations might endear her to the editors of the New York Times and The Nation, they won’t do her any favors with the North Dakota electorate.

If Buffalo runs, she’ll probably lose, and I’d be willing to wager that a statewide campaign in 2020 would likely cost her re-election in her legislative district in 2022 as well.

As someone who makes a living writing about politics, I’m very much interested in Buffalo launching a campaign. She’ll raise a lot of money from national sources, and her socialist inclinations will give people like me a lot to write and talk about. But if I were a Democrat in this state, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for her to pull off an upset.

I reached out to Buffalo for comment, but she didn’t immediately reply, and doesn’t typically respond to me anyway.

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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