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Plain Talk: Majority Leader Pollert reflects on career, Rep. Howe talks possible secretary of state campaign

Majority Leader Chet Pollert talks about his consequential career in the Legislature, including work as an influential appropriator and as a majority leader under whose leadership a lawmaker was expelled for the first time in history. Also, Rep. Michael Howe talks about a potential run for secretary of state.

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House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, right, speaks during a floor session in 2021.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service

MINOT, N.D. — After more than two decades in the North Dakota Legislature, having served in some consequential ways, as an influential appropriator and eventually leader the majority Republican caucus, Rep. Chet Pollert is calling it a career.

On this episode of Plain Talk, he talked about that decision, as well as what changed during his tenure in office, and what challenges North Dakota might face in the future.

"There was a decorum," Pollert said of politics when he first got started in the Legislature. "There was a process ... and we seem to have gotten away from that a little more."

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He said modern politics have become more personal, and more divisive. "I want us to be able to fight like cats and dogs but also be able to respect one another," he said.

He has some experience with how personal state politics has become. Under Pollert's leadership last year, the state House took the extraordinary step of expelling a member for the first time in state history. Luke Simons, at the time a representative from a Dickinson-area district, was voted out of his seat after being accused by multiple women, including two fellow Republican lawmakers, in a landslide vote that included a 2-1 majority among his fellow Republicans.

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"I felt it had to be done," Pollert said of the vote, though he added that it was "a very unpleasant time" during which both he and his wife received ugly phone calls and messages from Simons supporters.

Pollert said his proudest accomplishment as a lawmaker was showing his children the importance of public service. As for what challenges face North Dakota's leaders going forward? Protecting baseload energy production, and the reliability of the power grid, are at the top of his list as well as managing the Legacy Fund so that it can be a resource for funding the state's needs as oil activity, and thus oil revenues, decline in future decades.

Rep. Michael Howe, a Republican from West Fargo, also joined the show to talk about his interest in running for secretary of state. The incumbent, Al Jaeger, has held that office since 1992.

"I was in kindergarten then," Howe said. Now that Jaeger has announced he's retiring, Howe said it's time for some new leadership.

He'd like the office to get better at handling business filings, which has been a recurring theme of secretary of state campaigns for years now. He also spoke about how he'd rebuild trust in elections at a time when many Americans have lost it.

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