Port: Far-right activists continue their take over local NDGOP leadership positions across the state
"Extremists are, increasingly, in control of the NDGOP, and the party's moderates seem incapable of stopping it."
MINOT, N.D. — If you didn't like how this just-completed legislative session went in Bismarck, what with the intense focus on things such as book bans and pronouns, you should brace yourselves for more of the same.
The populist, culture-war-obsessed, Donald Trump-aligned wing of the North Dakota Republican Party continues its ascendancy. As its candidates take local positions from which they can influence the candidate selection process, we can expect the NDGOP to continue its lurch away from the pragmatic, thoughtful approach to governing that has kept it in power for more than three decades.
In many parts of the state, the candidates selected by these small, sparsely attended committee meetings win on the ballot almost by default.
As I previously reported, in District 2, in the Tioga area, the local NDGOP committee chose as its chairman Jerol Gohrick, who made threats of violence against the Grand Forks City Council.
In Minot's District 40, the local committee re-elected as chair Jay Lundeen, the organizer of an anti-vaccine conspiracy rally who berated then-Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner outside the Senate chamber.
One of Lundeen's first orders of business was a censure of long-time state Sen. Karen Krebsbach, a moderate who has been winning elections for Republicans since the Reagan administration. Lundeen, who was elected at a committee meeting attended by just 35 people, had the gall to accuse Krebsbach of being a Democrat.
More recently, in District 33, in central North Dakota north of Bismarck, the local committee chose Delvin Boehm as chair. He's a relative of Sen. Keith Boehm, a freshman lawmaker who introduced just two bills in the last legislative session. SB 2339, born of 2020 stolen election conspiracy theories, and SB 2360, which was the more egregious of the two book bans lawmakers passed this year (Gov. Doug Burgum successfully vetoed it).
Also elected to the local executive committee was a man named Keith Bohn, who is, per his Facebook profile, an aficionado of conspiracy theories about chemtrails and Bill Gates.
But it's not just western North Dakota where the lunatics have taken control of the asylum.
In Fargo's District 46, a slate of new leaders was elected to the local NDGOP committee while campaigning explicitly against moderate state Rep. Shannon Roers Jones for her votes against book bans and anti-trans bills.
A reader who was at the meeting shared with me some of the documentation that was shared with attendees by the activists just before the meeting.
It's a bit rich that the handouts claim that the activists and their slate of candidates — calling themselves D46 Grassroots — are "NOT a far-right group seeking radical change."
Yet Rob Muntz, a member of the D46 Grassroots slate of candidates who was elected chairman of District 46, makes posts on Facebook about vaccination conspiracy theories and comparing homosexuality to pedophilia and deviancy.
This may seem picayune to you. What do you care about who sits on the executive committee of some local party committee on the other side of the state?
You should care, because these committees have an enormous amount of sway over which candidates appear on the ballot come Election Day, and thus who gets elected, and increasingly they're coming under the control of the most extreme elements of the Republican Party.
Earlier this week I wrote about the tepid response from North Dakota's congressional delegation — Sens. Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven, and Congressman Kelly Armstrong — to the most recent wave of slime coming from disgraced former President Donald Trump.
Those elected leaders, who have to know that Trump is no good for the GOP, and no good for our country, can't bring themselves to condemn the man because at the grassroots level of their state party the populists from MAGA-world are taking over.
Why aren't the moderates fighting back? It's a good question.
This week Gov. Doug Burgum was on a bit of a media tour. In interviews with myself, and others, he complained about the Legislature's preoccupation with MAGA-world priorities like book bans. But what is he doing to help Republicans elect better leaders to the Legislature?
Burgum spent a great deal of his own money in the primaries last year favoring moderate Republicans over some of the more extreme alternatives. The outcome was a mixed bag, to put it politely, and if Burgum is doing anything to organize moderate rank-and-file Republicans to show up at these local district committee meetings, I'm not aware of it.
So that's where things stand. Extremists are, increasingly, in control of the NDGOP, and the party's moderates seem incapable of stopping it.