Democrats say Wrigley affair ‘disappointing’ but causes few ripples
BISMARCK – Top Democratic-NPL Party officials said Wednesday that Republican Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley’s admitted extramarital affair is disappointing, but they don’t expect calls for his resignation and said it won’t change how they prepare for the 2016 gubernatorial race.
Wrigley acknowledged in an interview Tuesday that he had been unfaithful to his wife Kathleen after blogger Jim Fuglie, a former Dem-NPL executive director, mentioned the rumored affair in a post about potential contenders for the GOP nomination. Wrigley indicated he’s still considering a gubernatorial run after Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s decision not to seek re-election.
State Rep. Kylie Oversen of Grand Forks, chairwoman of the state Dem-NPL party, said rumors of Wrigley’s affair had “kind of been floating around for a while.”
She said as a party chair and fellow elected official, “I understand and can sympathize with the scrutiny that the lieutenant governor and his wife are under.”
However, Oversen said she also expects elected officials to conduct themselves appropriately.
“Does this reflect on his character? I don’t know. But certainly we hold elected officials to a higher standard of judgment and this is disappointing, and it would be no matter who it was,” she said.
Dem-NPL party Executive Director Robert Haider said he doesn’t expect calls for Wrigley to step down from office.
“This is a private matter, but that being said, if it gets to the point that the lieutenant governor is on the ballot, the voters of North Dakota will be the ones to determine how this impacts the upcoming election,” he said.
Wrigley said Tuesday he informed his wife about the affair “very early” this year, but he wouldn’t be more specific. He also wouldn’t disclose when the affair started or ended or identify the woman involved, other than to say she is not a public official and that he had no professional connections to her.
“I think there’s obviously more to this story than he has brought out, but we as a party will not be calling on him to bring into the public sphere those that he’s affected with the decisions he’s made,” Haider said.
A spokesman for Dalrymple said Tuesday that Wrigley assured the governor the affair didn’t involve a conflict of interest and that a line of authority wasn’t crossed. Asked whether Democrats had concerns about that, Oversen said, “I think that’s a call that the governor should be making, because this is under his supervision. He should be the one that if there are serious concerns that this might have been a breach of line-of-command, that he should be looking into it. I would hope that that’s not the case.”
Oversen and Haider declined to speculate on how Wrigley’s admission might affect the GOP nomination process – he and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem have been mentioned as two of the leading potential candidates – but said it doesn’t change Democrats’ search for their best candidates.
Top among those is U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who said on her brother’s radio show Wednesday that she expects to make an announcement in the next five to seven days, KFGO-AM reported. A Heitkamp spokesperson told Forum News Service the announcement would come “in the next week or so.”
“I think it allows us as a party to focus our efforts appropriately once we know if she’s running and what she’s thinking,” Oversen said, adding that whether or not Heitkamp runs, “She’ll be at the table to support whoever our candidate is.”
Reach Nowatzki at (701) 255-5607 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.