One thing I’ve noticed about this election cycle is that there doesn’t seem to be near as many campaign yard signs as in previous cycles. At least not here in Minot. When I drive around town I see more signs for a couple of local judicial candidates than I do anything else, and really aren’t all that many of those either.
A sign of the times? If you’ll pardon the pun?
Anyway, to the point of this post. The photo above is of a campaign sign along 4th Avenue Northwest here in Minot advertising the state House campaigns of husband and wife team Susan and Richard Rintoul. They’re running in District 38 against Republican incumbents Larry Bellew and Dan Ruby. The Democrats don’t have a Senate candidate in that district. The Republican Senate incumbent is David Hogue.
Heidi Rintoul, the daughter of Susan and Richard, is running for the state House in District 40. Interestingly, in the Secretary of State candidate database all three members of the Rintoul family list the same residential mailing address, yet they’re running for two different districts this cycle, and Heidi Rintoul ran in a third district last cycle (District 5).
I’m not sure how they’re accomplishing that legally, at least in this cycle. Maybe Rintoul moved out of mom and dad’s house? State law only requires that a lawmaker be a resident of their district 30 days before election day.
Maybe think about voting for Measure 1. But I digress.
These signs amuse me (because I’m easily amused). Because the Rintoul family is most definitely to the left, but their sign says vote right. A hidden meaning, perhaps, within an alliterative slogan? You have to remember that in western North Dakota the likelihood of a Democrat winning an election is the degree to which they can separate themselves from the liberal platform of the Democratic Party.
That’s how Senator Heidi Heitkamp won her seat in 2012, by running so far away from President Barack Obama and the national Democratic Party that the North Dakota Republican Party was offering her a tongue-in-cheek membership.
Every time I drive by these signs – there aren’t many of them, I’ve seen like two – I laugh. Because, you know, well played.
Only, it seems like this branding effort is hardly a coincidence. In the Dickinson Press today is a letter to the editor from a man confused by messaging on Democratic campaign signs in that community’s District 36.
“Have you noticed in the paper the District 36 Democrats have gone negative? At least I think they are Democrats. Their ads don’t say they are Democrats, but rather something called ‘Vote Right District 36’,” writes John Enderle. “Normally we have right-wing Republicans and left-wing Democrats, so why aren’t they ‘Vote Left District 36’? I am pretty sure Dean Meyer and Linda Kittlilson will be on the ballot as Democrats.”
Here’s an image of one of the campaign signs Enderle is talking about which I pulled from Facebook:
There’s that double meaning again.
I don’t think this is a coincidence. I think it’s a reflection of the way Democrats think they have to brand themselves to win elections in deeply Republican western North Dakota.
Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that, I suppose. But it is, like I said, amusing.