UPDATED: With Incumbent Kelly Schmidt Retiring, Fargo Republican Says He’s Interested in Running for State Treasurer

Raheem Williams

North Dakota Treasurer Kelly Schmidt, a Republican, has announced she won’t seek a fifth four-year term in office during the 2020 election cycle.

“This is not something I have taken lightly,” she told Bismarck Tribune reporter Jack Dura. “I have thought about it. I have prayed about it. I have visited with my family about it. And it’s just time for a new chapter. I think we all get to that point that it’s time to turn the page, and I feel that it’s my time.”

Schmidt’s decision to step down from the office leaves an opening for other Republicans.

One who is considering running for the seat is a relative newcomer, both to North Dakota and the state’s political scene. Fargo resident Raheem “Rocky” Williams told me today that he’s interested in running for Treasurer.

Williams is 27 years old and has lived in North Dakota for three years (UPDATE: See below). He is currently the policy director for the North Dakota Young Republicans, a policy analyst for the libertarian Reason Foundation, and the founder/editor of The Policy.

That last is a multimedia, multi-platform public policy publication which boasts tens of thousands of followers. Previously he was employed at North Dakota State University as a researcher.

If he did campaign, he says he’d like to help North Dakotans understand that their state government’s finances are not as sound as they seem.

Williams is not entirely in the race yet. “There are other people I respect who are considering the office,” he told me when we spoke this afternoon, though he declined to say who. He expects his decision will hinge on those decisions.

If he did campaign, he says he’d like to help North Dakotans understand that their state government’s finances are not as sound as they seem. Williams also says he’d like to address underfunded pension funds, create some protections for the state’s budget stabilization fund (what policymakers often refer to as the “rain day” fund), and “make sure the LEgacy Fund doesn’t become another rain day fund.”

In North Dakota, the Treasurer’s office’s direct duties are mostly administrative. Most of the office’s influence over policy comes by way of seats the office commands on state boards such as State Investment Board and the Board of University and School Lands.

There is a faction, in state political circles, who would like to see the office closed down and its meager official duties transferred elsewhere. One Republican told me the party may very well see a candidate who campaigns on the platform of being the state’s last Treasurer.

News of Schmidt’s retirement just broke today, so there hasn’t been a lot of time for chins to wag about other potential candidates. Two names I’ve heard thrown around are Thomas Beadle and Shannon Roers Jones.

Both are Fargo-area Republican lawmakers who serve in the state House. Neither immediately returned a phone call this afternoon.

I haven’t heard anything about potential Democratic candidates, though that’s not unusual. The party, thoroughly marginalized by voters in recent election cycles, struggles to recruit candidates for top-of-the-ballot races, let alone down-ticket competitions like Treasurer.

North Dakota has seen only four Democrats hold the Treasurer office since statehood (including one who held the office in two non-consecutive stints).

UPDATE: A reader points out that Williams’ length of residency in North Dakota may be an issue for his candidacy. This is from Article V of the state Constitution:

Among the offices created by Article V is the state Treasurer.

I spoke with Raheem about this. He said he wasn’t aware of the provision. “I guess that makes me ineligible,” he told me.

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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