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McFeely: ND's GOP establishment just as incompetent as the crackpots

It should've been a slam-dunk this was going to make the ballot, given the power players in charge of getting it done. No way this crew could screw it up, not like the flakes who sought an initiated measure to impose term limits and were rejected in March for having thousands of ineligible signatures on their petitions.

Mike_Haugen.jpg
Former North Dakota Adj. General Mike Haugen speaks at a press conference in support of a proposed ballot measure on Tuesday, April 13, 2021 in the North Dakota Capitol.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service
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FARGO — These were the professionals, we were led to believe. The North Dakota Republican establishment that runs the state backed by that most establishment organization of all, the Greater North Dakota Chamber. The crowd that favors suits and ties, country club memberships and winter homes in Arizona.

Out front was former North Dakota National Guard Adjutant Gen. Mike Haugen, a no-nonsense military man who would get things done . This was not some willy-nilly outfit filled with socialists, commies, libertarians, right-wing crackpots, dope-smoking hippies or out-of-state infiltrators.

This was the best and the brightest. Or at least a bunch of old well-to-do white guys. The Establishment.

So imagine the surprise when news broke this week that Secretary of State Al Jaeger was forced to nix a proposed measure that would've concentrated power even more in the hands of GOP politicians more than it already is. Haugen, the chamber and their merry band of establishmentarians sought to raise the bar for amending the state constitution via initiated measure from a simple majority to 60% of the voters in an election.

It's an anti-democratic, anti-citizen measure Republicans have fixated on since their constituents voted to establish an ethics committee in hopes of limiting the steak dinners, open bar tabs and flights to Harold Hamm's Oklahoma ranch lobbyists were throwing at legislators. Nothing fuels the fire in the belly of the establishment North Dakota GOP than meddling do-gooders wanting to take away their free booze.

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It should've been a slam-dunk this was going to make the ballot, given the power players in charge of getting it done. No way this crew could screw it up, not like the flakes who sought an initiated measure to impose term limits and were rejected in March for having thousands of ineligible signatures on their petitions.

And certainly not like the rank amateurs who tried to recall several Fargo school board members but failed when their gathered signatures didn't pass muster.

Turns out the Great and Powerful Oz is just as incompetent as the goofballs.

Jaeger said thousands of signatures from Haugen's gang were rejected because they failed to meet legal standards. The state attorney general will investigate for possible criminal activity.

There were rumors months ago of the group having problems gathering signatures, and Jaeger's findings confirmed them. By state law, it needed 31,164 valid signatures for the measure to appear on the ballot. Haugen turned in just 31,622 signatures, not nearly enough of a cushion even with a competent campaign, and the secretary of state rejected 5,738 of them.

Only 458 surplus signatures with a year to gather them? Somebody point these clods to Minot in mid-July.

Weren't we told it's too easy to gather signatures and get frivolous measures on the ballot? Maybe that's just for ethics measures.

Even with paid signature gatherers and a $559,000 bankroll, the establishment flopped like a dying carp.

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On cue, Haugen threw his paid petition circulators under the bus for derailing the campaign. Guess the buck doesn't stop at the top.

And these guys are running the state. Makes you wonder what else they are messing up.

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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