Today in a meeting in Jamestown, North Dakota Democrats picked a new leader for their party following the announced resignation of former Chairman Bob Valeu.
They picked 25-year-old, first-term state Rep. Kylie Oversen. I’m told there was no other candidate.
Warren Larson, a staffer for former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan, was chosen as Vice Chairman.
Current Executive Director of the party, Chad Oban, will be stepping down later this year.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]The one area where Oversen has an advantage is identitlitics. She is young and photogenic and a female. But if that’s her qualifications for the post, she may as well have just won a beauty prize.[/mks_pullquote]
Oversen is an…interesting choice, to say the least.
She’s not very accomplished, for one thing. This last week I criticized her for introducing a largely inconsequential gender pay equity bill not so much because it would have impact (it changes so little in the law that the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce hasn’t even bothered to take a position on it) but rather as a way to pad her slim resume.
Oversen is also very polarizing, politically. By our rankings of lawmakers in the current session so far, she is by far the most liberal of the liberal Democrats in the state House. In a state that has been shifting to the right over the last few election cycles, is that really who Democrats want leading their party?
That Democrats would pick someone like Oversen to head up their party tells us a lot about where they are right now. Oversen’s only political success is winning a not-very-convincing election for the state House – by less than 700 votes – in one of the most left-wing districts in the state. It seems unlikely that she’s going to raise much money (though Democrats will probably be about as dependent on out-of-state money as they usually are), and her organizational skills are untested, at best.
The one area where Oversen has an advantage is identity politics. She is young and photogenic and a female. But if that’s her qualifications for the post, she may as well have just won a beauty prize.
I get the feeling that Democrats made this decision from a place of exasperation. Nothing else has worked for them of late, so when it comes to taking a flyer on an only superficially qualified leader, they’ve got to be thinking why the hell not.
Oversen hasn’t completed even one term in the state Legislature yet. In fact, she’ll be on the ballot in 2016, and she’s still a law student at the University of North Dakota.
Some might wonder how she’s going to balance classes and campaigning for her own seat and the duties of the party leader. We might also wonder how someone who hasn’t yet graduated from college, who probably hasn’t held any jobs beyond the sort of part-time and entry-level work college students typically take up while pursuing their careers, is qualified to lead an entire political party.
But maybe she’s just a figurehead. A facade for the same liberal objectives and messages which haven’t gained traction in North Dakota in the past.