MINOT, N.D. — In 2016, state Rep. Rick Becker ran for governor.

He didn't get much traction, losing at the NDGOP state convention with just 35% of the vote in a three-way race between Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Doug Burgum, who, as you all know, is now our governor.

Now Becker, who is a plastic surgeon when he's not working in politics, apparently sees a way to leverage the COVID-19 crisis into becoming a sort of backseat governor in the Burgum administration.

On Friday, after the resignation of another of Burgum's state health officers, Becker sent a letter to the governor touting himself as a replacement candidate.

He even has a sort of platform for his campaign for the position.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

"The 10-point plan, which he calls #FreedomNotFearND, would be a major shift from the state's moves to address COVID-19 so far," the Bismarck Tribune's Bilal Suleiman reported.

Becker can't expect that his bid is going to be taken seriously.

As I wrote on Friday, we need a state health officer who realizes they're not the governor. The SHO must provide medical expertise to the governor. It is the governor's job to incorporate that expertise into the broader nexus of considerations — things like the economy and education and individual rights — which public policy must address.

State health officers only consider health. Governors must consider much more than that.

Does anyone believe that Becker, with all his apparent political ambition, has any interest in limiting himself to a strictly medical role? The problem with the last two SHOs is that they seemed to think that the governor ought to do whatever they told him to do.

It's not at all clear that Becker would be an improvement.

We also cannot ignore the very recent political friction between Burgum and Becker. During the primary season, Burgum poured money into an effort to undermine the political fortunes of the "Bastiat Caucus" of legislative Republicans that Becker founded.

Becker called the effort "crap" during an interview with me.

"I don't think he's been horrible" was the kindest thing he could bring himself to say about Burgum during our conversation.

What assurance would Burgum have that this outspoken critic, who has built himself a sort of cult of personality on the fringe of NDGOP politics, wouldn't burn him at the first hint of disagreement over state policy?

Some have mocked Becker's bid on the basis that, despite being a doctor, he's not qualified since his area of practice is plastic surgery. I think that's wrong-headed. I don't doubt Becker's medical expertise, which has often been on display, as it relates to public policy during his tenure in the Legislature.

I do question Becker's motivations for the bid. Is he interested in helping our state through the COVID-19 crisis? Or is he, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, just scoring cheap shots on a political enemy?

Burgum needs to hire a health officer who understands their proper role in his administration.

That is almost certainly not Rick Becker.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com.