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Port: Former staffer for Gov. Burgum texts mocking messages to Bastiat legislative candidate

"I probably shouldn't have done that," former Burgum staffer Robbie Lauf told me.

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The North Dakota capitol building in Bismarck.
File photo
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MINOT, N.D. — The Republican legislative primaries here in North Dakota are not just a heated competition between warring philosophies — traditional conservative Republicans versus a new breed of Trumpy culture warrior populists loosely affiliated with the Bastiat Caucus in the Legislature — but they've gotten deeply personal as well.

Ryan Eckroth is a part of a wave of legislative candidates from that latter group, and he's seeking the NDGOP's nomination for state Senate in District 35, which is in the Bismarck area.

His opponent is Sean Cleary, a former staffer for Sen. John Hoeven and Gov. Doug Burgum.

This race is one of those targeted by the independent spending coming from Burgum.

Today the Minuteman Blog — a propaganda blog for the Bastiats written by a person who lacks the integrity to put his name on the things he writes — posted a series of text messages sent to Eckroth purportedly coming from Robbie Lauf, who is also a former Burgum staffer.

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Most of the post is a childish jeremiad that includes the shocking revelation that (hold on to your hats, folks) Cleary's sister, who is running for a seat in city government in Bismarck, is a Democrat.

Who knew that women were allowed to have independent thoughts that diverge from those of the men in their families? Be still, my heart.

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(I hope it's clear that I'm being sarcastic here, because I'm laying it on pretty thick.)

Still, the bit about the text messages is newsworthy, if true. And it's true.

The messages are mocking in tone, asking Eckroth if he supported frequent fringe candidate Michael Coachman for governor in the 2020 cycle.

When Eckroth responds saying he'd like to discuss the matter via a phone call, Lauf responds by saying he "lives on 1st" and doesn't like talking to politicians. He then claims he'd put up an Eckroth yard sign if he gets an answer about Coachman.

When Eckroth again demures Lauf wrote "typical politicians" and "I'll vote for Cleary."

The blogger didn't post the phone numbers the texts came from, but I called Lauf, who does live in Bismarck, and he admitted the texts were from him. "I did text him yes," he told me. "I wanted to see if he supported Coachman."

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Asked about the mocking tone of the messages, including the claim that he'd support Eckorth, Lauf admitted, "I probably shouldn't have done that."

Lauf said he isn't currently working for Burgum, and has no affiliation with the leadership PAC the governor has been using to promote his preferred legislative candidates, including Cleary.

"I did it all on my lonesome as just a voter," Lauf told me.

Eckroth did not immediately return a message I left seeking comment.

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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