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Port: Citing 'extreme rhetoric' and 'divisiveness,' another North Dakota lawmaker announces retirement

"The depth of our debates has diminished," she wrote. "The issues we argue are, oftentimes, inconsequential. Logic and reason are being replaced by conspiracy and posturing, and my patience for it in general, but especially within those beautiful walls of the Senate, has worn thin."

Oban 4/29
Sen. Erin Oban, center, was thanked with a quilt on Thursday, April 29, 2021, for her work advocating for Senate Bill 2304. (Michelle Griffith / The Forum)
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MINOT, N.D. — Last week, during the waning hours of the Legislature's special session in Bismarck, Sen. Nicole Poolman , a Republican, announced her retirement.

In a speech she delivered on the Senate floor making the announcement, she cited the "toxic" and "divisive" political environment. "I would be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling a little weary," she said.

Those sentiments have been echoed in another retirement announcement, this time from Sen. Erin Oban , a Democrat. "It's obvious that the extreme rhetoric and divisiveness of the national scene have seeped into our state," she wrote in a Facebook post, going on to note that her legislative chamber's reputation for serious-minded debate has been changing.

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"The depth of our debates has diminished," she wrote. "The issues we argue are, oftentimes, inconsequential. Logic and reason are being replaced by conspiracy and posturing, and my patience for it in general, but especially within those beautiful walls of the Senate, has worn thin."

"Even more difficult for me to manage, though, is how disheartened I've become as more and more of my colleagues -- smart, thoughtful, incredibly high-quality legislators, statesmen and women who may not share my party but about whom I genuinely respect and care -- comply because it seems easier in the moment."

Oban's retirement statement made an allusion to the We the People rally, which attracted hundreds to the steps of the Capitol building on the first day of the special session. The permit for the rally was pulled by an Ohio man subpoenaed by Congress as a part of its inquiry into the Jan. 6 riot in Washington, D.C.

Oban was first elected to the Senate in 2014, and her presence there was notable in that she was, and will be until her term expires, the only Democrat elected to public office in western North Dakota (to the extent we can consider Bismarck in the west). Her electoral success where other Democrats haven't been able to win, coupled with her fundraising prowess, will be sorely missed by the Democratic-NPL.

I didn't often find myself agreeing with Sen. Oban on policy, on a personal level I like both her and her husband, a frequent guest and co-host on my podcast . I thought Sen. Oban to be a serious-minded lawmaker.

In a different sort of political environment, I might see her retirement, and likely replacement by a Republican, as a positive development. In this political environment, with its predilection for reactionary and performative politics, it feels, as it did with Poolman's retirement, like the loss of another adult in the room.

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To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

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

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 rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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