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Walkout at North Dakota GOP meeting underscores party split

The walkout highlights a growing fracture within the state's Republican Party, which controls all statewide elected positions in North Dakota and holds super majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature.

NDGOP Headquarters sign
The sign for the North Dakota Republican Party headquarters sits along East Boulevard Avenue near the state Capitol in Bismarck.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service

BISMARCK — Eight North Dakota GOP leaders walked out of a party meeting in Bismarck over the weekend in protest over decisions made by party leaders, in yet another sign of a growing Republican fracture.

Republican leaders on the party's State Committee were convened at the GOP headquarters on Saturday, Dec. 18, to discuss plans for next year's political convention and to vote on new bylaws.

But partway through the meeting, seven district party chairs and Republican National Committeewoman Lori Hinz left in protest over state GOP chair Perrie Schafer's appointments of eight temporary district chairs, a move made under a new law governing the reorganization of political parties according to the Legislature's newly established district lines.

"We were disappointed that a very small minority of protestors decided to leave and disenfranchise the Republicans in those districts," Schafer said in a statement responding to the walkout on Saturday. "We will, of course, continue our efforts to reach out to them and work through differences in the spirit of unity that we are called to as Republicans here in North Dakota."

The walkout highlights a growing fracture within the state's Republican Party, which controls all statewide elected positions in North Dakota and holds super majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature.

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Criticisms of the state's pandemic responses and social causes like opposition to critical race theory have become rallying cries for the party's right wing, and were also the subject of a large rally hosted earlier this year at the state Capitol during the Legislature's special session.

At a press conference in Bismarck on Monday, District 38 Chairman Jared Hendrix, one of the participants in the walkout, said moves by the GOP establishment have served to keep grassroots contributors to the party out of power.

"Shockingly, many party leaders openly discourage newcomers," he said. "One can only assume based upon what we know about human nature that this is due to an instinct of self-preservation by those in power."

Minot-area District 40 Chairman Jay Lundeen, who organized this weekend's walkout, said the interim district chair appointments by Schafer disenfranchised Republicans, infringing on the rights of many members within the party.

"If it fractures the Republican Party, break it up, because I would rather break it up than be left with slavery completely," said Lundeen, who was one of the organizers of the Capitol rally during the special session.

The GOP also drew criticism Monday from the North Dakota Young Republicans, which alongside the North Dakota College Republicans, were made ex-officio, non-voting State Committee members under the party's new bylaws.

"The goals of the North Dakota Young Republicans are aligned with the Republican Party platform," Young Republicans chair Daryl Mindeman said in a statement on Monday. "While we are saddened to see the divisive state of the Party, NDYR will continue to stand for these principles that have made our state great."

The North Dakota Young Republicans have been members of the board since 2019.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at awillis@forumcomm.com.

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