Port: A bizarre political attack precipitated by the 4-year anniversary of my dog getting lost

People like Sen. Jason Heitkamp aren't fit to call themselves conservatives. More than that, they aren't fit to hold elected office.

Jason Heitkamp
Jason Heitkamp, a Republican Senator in North Dakota's in District 26, is seen here in a campaign announcement video posted on Facebook announcing his campaign for the Legislature in March of 2020.

MINOT, N.D. — The North Dakota Republican Party has gotten a lot of flak over new rules requiring contributions to the party from candidates seeking the party's endorsement.

It's pay for play, critics, including this one, have said.

Though I don't support the rule change, because I don't think money is the best way to go about it, I understand and agree with the motivations. The party is attempting to implement a filter. A way to weed out the unserious candidates so that Republicans, when contemplating who might best represent them on the ballot, can focus on candidates who might have a shot at winning an election.

Some call this elitism; an attempt by the NDGOP "establishment" to keep themselves in power.

But it's not. The party, which has enjoyed three decades worth of dominance at the ballot box as a result of largely pragmatic and moderate governance, has a problem with cranks and extremists who are trying to take over.


I have a personal experience from over the weekend that illustrates just how true this is.

First, some back story.

Four years ago this month we lost our dog for a few weeks. Her full name, as bestowed by way of an accord reached by our children, is Molly Anastasia Ice Cream Buttercup Port.

We were out of town, and my nephew was stopping by the house to feed her and water her and let her outside to do her business.

Unfortunately, Molly decided she didn't like my nephew. She got out of our fenced-in yard when he let her out and absconded.

It was a scary time. The weather was about what you'd expect in North Dakota in late January, which is to say it was brutally cold. She's a little puppy. After weeks of searching for her, including nightly forays into neighborhoods helpful people on social media had reported seeing her, we were almost positive she hadn't survived.

Then we got a Facebook message from someone who had found her. I rushed over, and sure enough, there was our Molly. A little thinner, a lot anxious, but happy to see me.

We were sure happy to see her too.


Molly Anastasia Ice Cream Buttercup Port
Molly Anastasia Ice Cream Buttercup Port comes home after being lost for weeks in January, 2018.
Photo by Rob Port

This year Molly celebrated her 10th birthday, which is old for a dog of her size and breed. She's on two different kinds of pills for her heart. She's moving slow. She sleeps most of the time. But she's still a beloved member of our family.

I can hear her snoring on the couch as I write this.

Molly's saga on the wintry streets of Minot wouldn't normally be something I'd write about except that this weekend, four years later, an elected official decided to make an issue out of it.

Sen. Jason Heitkamp, a Republican from District 26, shared a post my wife made back when Molly was missing, using it to argue that I mistreat my pets.

In the post he tagged Bastiat Caucus founder Rep. Rick Becker, Rep. Jeff Magrum, and hard-line Donald Trump activist Charles Tuttle.

Charles Tuttle, who is from Minot, who has appeared on stage at NDGOP state conventions seeking endorsement as a candidate for office, who was in Bismarck recently to support a small group of Bastiat Caucus-aligned district chairs who walked out of the state meeting that created the aforementioned contribution rule for candidates, who attended local NDGOP district meetings across the state when Bastiat-aligned activists were attempting to take over local leadership , who is exactly the sort of person the NDGOP would like to filter out of their candidate selection process, made a deranged post of his own about the four-year anniversary of Molly's adventure.

In addition to impugning my reputation as a dog owner, he also accuses me of "doing the work of satan."

My purpose in bringing this up is not to defend my record as a pet owner, but to illustrate the kook problem the NDGOP is dealing with.


Heitkamp is an elected official who holds office after campaigning on the NDGOP's ticket.

Tuttle has addressed NDGOP state conventions, from the stage, and garnered a not insignificant minority of the delegate vote.

The Trump era has brought these sorts of people out of the woodwork, and they're fighting, for the most part unsuccessfully, to control the NDGOP.

Seen through that lens, perhaps the NDGOP's rule changes don't seem so elitist.

I have spent most of my adult life advocating for conservatism. I promote the philosophy. I argue for the policies that stem from it.

What enrages me is that people like Tuttle and Sen. Heitkamp — yes, the guy who was seen during November's special session riding around in the "F--- Joe Biden" truck and who has said he doesn't regret social media posts calling for former President Barack Obama to be lynched — claim to represent authentic conservatism.

They're the capital-T, capital-C, True Conservatives. They're the Real Republicans. They go on about it ad nauseam.

Everyone else is just a pretender. An establishment elitist.


That's malarkey.

If I'm tough on people like Heitkamp and Becker and the Bastiat Caucus, it's because I don't want them to represent conservatism in the minds of the public.

Trumpism, with all its mean-spirited tactics and rhetorical excesses, is not conservatism.

People like Heitkamp and Tuttle aren't fit to call themselves conservatives.

They aren't even fit to hold elected office.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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