Shelley Lenz and Cesar Alvarez are two Democratic-NPL candidates who have lost previously on the ballot but think they have ideas that can help Democratic candidates start to win in North Dakota.

"Scrap the current platform," Lenz said on this episode of Plain Talk. "It's not resonating."

Lenz and Alvarez want to be chair and vice-chair of the Democratic-NPL, and they want to organize the party around a platform of a half-dozen or so policy proposals. The party needs to "simplify our platform" to a more "legislative platform we can campaign on."

They also argue that the state party needs to broaden its appeal in North Dakota. "We need to start winning some of these races in western North Dakota," Lenz said.

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"What do we have, one lawmaker elected west of I29?" she continued, referencing the interstate highway that connects Fargo and Grand Forks on the eastern fringe of the state.

It's actually a few more than that, but not many, and the point is well-made.

How do Lenz and Alvarez plan to help the Dem-NPL make inroads into western North Dakota at a time when, at the national level, the incoming administration of President Joe Biden is already issuing orders that harm the energy industries (oil and gas and coal), which employ, directly and indirectly, vast swaths of the people who live there?

Neither offered a lot of specifics during the interview - the tired shibboleth about "all of the above" energy made an appearance - but Lenz did express a willingness to push back against the national party's hostility to oil and gas and coal.

"Energy and food will always come from rural areas," she said. "That's why we need to shape the national party on energy and food."

Alvarez is a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, whose tribal lands make up the heart of western North Dakota's oil fields. "You'll get no anti-oil stuff from me," he said.

"Our platform isn't anti-Republican," Lenz said. Alvarez echoed this saying he and Lenz are "not focusing on vilifying the other side."

"You can't thrive in rural America without being conservative," Lenz continued.

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