This last week the Doug Burgum campaign took at shot at Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem in an ad, accusing him of supporting Obamacare because he signed onto an amicus brief opposing the King vs. Burwell case before the Supreme Court.
Today the Stenejem campaign sent me a copy of an ad they’re going to start running on Sunday (see above) which calls Burgum’s ad “nasty” and “not true.”
After pointing out that Stenehjem has spent a good deal of his time as Attorney General suing the federal government on behalf of North Dakotans – including a lawsuit challenging Obamacare supported by dozens of other states – the ad goes on to suggest that Burgum will “say or pay anything to be governor.”
“Let’s tell Doug Burgum that North Dakota is not for sale,” the ad concludes.
The Stenehjem campaign elaborated on the points made in the ad in a press release accompanying it (see it in full below):
“It’s unfortunate the Burgum campaign has sunk to the tactic of false claims,” Stenehjem said in response to the ad. “It’s clear they need to do their homework before they create and distribute this kind of information.”
“Few in North Dakota have been fighting harder against Obamacare than I have,” he said. In 2010, Stenehjem was among the first Attorneys General in the nation to join the original lawsuit to overturn Obamacare. Further, in 2014 Stenehjem opposed a lawsuit created to kill Obamacare not because he supported the disastrous healthcare plan but because he believed the lawsuit itself was ill-conceived and held the possibility to hurt North Dakotans.
The lawsuit sought to halt federal tax credits for people who signed up for Obamacare through the federal exchange. “The impact of this lawsuit on our state’s policy holders would have been devastating,” Stenehjem said. “Over 15,000 North Dakota Obamacare policyholders would have been denied the federal credit they counted on to help pay the premiums they were required by law to buy.”
Stenehjem has a point on the “not true” part (I didn’t think the Burgum ad was particularly nasty). While the political optics of being the only Republican attorney general to sign on with a bunch of Democrats to a brief opposing the King vs. Burwell lawsuit aren’t great, to suggest as Burgum did in his ad that Stenehjem was the “only Republican Attorney General to support Obamacare” is a false statement. One can simultaneously oppose Obamacare as public policy and oppose the King vs. Burwell lawsuit as a means of overturning it.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]to suggest as Burgum did in his ad that Stenehjem was the “only Republican Attorney General to support Obamacare” is a false statement.[/mks_pullquote]
Stenehjem opposed the King vs. Burwell lawsuit as a means to defeat Obamacare, but he has been consistent in saying he opposes Obamacare and has actively tried to overturn the law through other legal actions.
Criticizing Stenehjem’s tactics in opposing Obamacare is fair. Saying he supports the law is not.
Burgum is caught in a pretty blatant exaggeration here, and the Stenehjem campaign is calling him on it. Forcefully. And I say that as someone who thinks Stenehjem shouldn’t have opposed King vs. Burwell.
Stenehjem should have sided with the rule of the law as written.
On a related note, Burgum has undermined himself on this front with his campaign trail comments.
He is on the record telling voters, in more than one venue including the NDGOP state convention earlier this month, that Stenehjem has served North Dakota well as attorney general and should stay in that position. He said specifically in his address to delegates at the convention that he looks forward to working with Stenehjem if elected governor.
Yet, his ad tells a different story, one of an attorney general who is not serving North Dakota well.
That’s certainly a mixed message, and one that Burgum should explain. Does he think Stenehjem has been a good attorney general or not?
Here’s the Stenehjem campaign press release:
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