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Omdahl: Miss America Cara Mund could unravel North Dakota politics

"Cara Mund has one strong point in her favor," suggests Lloyd Omdahl. "People are fed up with partisan politics. She is a breath of fresh air in the smoke-filled rooms of the kingmakers."

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Bismarck Native Cara Mund, crowned Miss America for 2018 at the Boardwalk Hall Arena in Atlantic City, has announced that she will challenge both the Republican and Democratic candidates for Congress as an independent in the November election.

To get her name on the ballot, she will have to gather at least 1,000 signatures to file with the Office of Secretary State Al Jaeger by Sept. 6.

The 28-year-old graduate from the Harvard Law School indicated that she was motivated to become a candidate when the abortion case of Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. “I don’t think the government should be in your bedroom,” she said in the announcement of her candidacy.

The seasoned politicians of the state, looking at third candidate failures in North Dakota’s history, are very speculative of her chances. At best, they are probably expecting her to get 5% to 10% of the vote.

Because the state legislature has placed a trigger law on the books to end abortions in the state upon invalidation of Roe Vs. Wade, abortions in North Dakota are expected to be illegal sometime this early fall.

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Out-of-state observers note that Mund will have an uphill fight in North Dakota for a variety of reasons. First, she may not be able to raise enough money to become a formidable candidate. Second, others think that the conservative bent in the state will not treat her candidacy favorably. Third, Cara lacks the public visibility of incumbent Rep. Kelly Armstrong. Fourth, the abortion issue won’t fly in conservative North Dakota.

Many candidates depend on nationwide fundraising to underwrite their campaigns. Besides Planned Parenthood, many women’s organizations are gearing up to fight and are raising millions to counter-punch the anti-abortionists. An article about her candidacy in the national People Magazine may alert fundraisers across the country.

Conservative North Dakota is not as conservative on the abortion issue as the state legislature. The 2013 session of the legislature proposed a constitutional amendment providing that every human being at any stage of development has an inalienable right to life. In the 2014 election, voters gave the measure a stunning defeat, with a 30-point margin against the measure.

Because scientific polls are very expensive, it is very rare that voters are informed about the present strength of the law against abortion. So all we have is speculation “by golly” rather than facts. The lingering question is whether or not public opinion has changed since 2014.

Mund has one strong point in her favor. People are fed up with partisan politics. She is a breath of fresh air in the smoke-filled rooms of the kingmakers. In the past, almost all independent candidates ran for political reasons but seldom with the intention to win. Cara has no political baggage — she is a clean independent.

Earlier in August, the Pew Research Center conducted a poll in which it was found that partisan politics has become more partisan than ever. More Republicans and Democrats see the opposing party as immoral and dishonest.

Neither party is popular with the public with only 41% having a favorable view of Democrats and 37% having favorable views of Republicans. Attitudes in both parties have become so rigid that compromises on major issues are unlikely for years to come. Democracy is coming to a standstill.

Younger voters are searching for an escape from politics as usual. They favor more political parties, something that is nearly impossible in our system of government. They may be attracted to a nonpartisan candidate.

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It is obvious from her announcement that her candidacy will be a referendum on the abortion issue. Right now, it is difficult to make any predictions. If Miss America Mund can light a prairie fire, the state could be ablaze with change.

Omdahl is a former N.D. lieutenant governor and retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. Email ndmatters@midco.net

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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Opinion by Lloyd Omdahl
Omdahl is a former N.D. lieutenant governor and retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. Email ndmatters@midco.net

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