Will North Dakota Democrats Spend Their Money Supporting This Trump-Loving Conservative Politician Again?


Michael Coachman, a regular if marginal candidate for statewide office in North Dakota, has announced yet another campaign. In 2020 he’ll be running for governor, taking on incumbent Republican Doug Burgum (who hasn’t announced yet but has been polling his candidacy) and an eventual Democratic candidate.

Good for Coachman, I think. His past campaigns have been premised on the idea that Republicans aren’t governing conservatively enough. While I’m not sure North Dakota voters are quite as conservative as Coachman and his supporters would like to believe they are, there’s not a thing in the world wrong with bringing his ideas to the race for the Republican nomination.

Coachman has run as an independent in the past. He told reporter Jack Dura he’d be running as a Republican this time around, meaning he’d have to beat out Burgum for the nomination. That’ll be a heavy left for Coachman, especially given his utter lack of fundraising.

During the 2018 election cycle, when he ran for Secretary of State as an independent candidate, he raised just $225.

In 2016, when Coachman was for Lt. Governor along with Bismarck-based gadfly Paul Sorum (who was running for governor), they raised just $100.

Money isn’t everything in politics, but candidates who want to reach voters with a message do actually have to raise and spend some money.

Speaking of which, Coachman did manage to get about 13 percent of the vote in the Secretary of State race in 2018 despite a next-to-non-existent campaign. That figure was likely boosted by North Dakota Democrats who spent money on at least three statewide mailers promoting Coachman’s campaign.

Here’s one of them, sent to me last year by a reader. Note the disclaimer at the bottom:

The state Democratic party wouldn’t respond to my inquiries about the mailer at the time. When I spoke to Coachman about it at the time he was as confused as I was by the situation.

Last year’s Secretary of State race was definitely a weird one.

Will Gardner, endorsed by the NDGOP at their state convention, flamed out after it was revealed he’d been arrested on the NDSU campus for peeping into dorm windows (it was not exactly a proud moment for the NDGOP’s candidate vetting process).

Incumbent Al Jaeger, defeated at the convention by Gardner, re-entered the race but had to run as an independent because of the timing.

Democrats, by boosting Coachman, were trying to capitalize on the confusion and triangulate a win for their candidate, state Rep. Josh Boschee (D-Fargo).

It didn’t work, though they did deny Jaeger a majority of the vote. He ultimately got just over 47 percent. Boschee got a bit over 39 percent. Coachman, as I already mentioned, got about 13 percent.

Still, it was a profoundly cynical maneuver for Democrats to promote a Trump-loving conservative, particularly for a political party that is on the record detesting Trump.

Will Democrats try it again? Boosting Coachman in his primary against Burgum?

If Coachman puts himself on the general election ticket to make it a three-way race with Burgum and the Democratic candidate (I’m sorry, he’s not winning the NDGOP nomination), will Democrats spend their money hoping to take a bite out of Burgum’s vote total?

Maybe, though if I were a Democrat, I’d wonder why my dysfunctional state political party, driven to the point of only marginal relevance in state governance by one election year loss after another, is spending money on these sort of shenanigans.