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Port: Minot lawmaker Oley Larsen, leader of Bastiat Caucus, is apparently not running for re-election

"Oley asked me to take his spot," says Rep. Bob Paulson, who is pursuing endorsement for the Senate seat Larsen currently holds.

State Sen. Oley Larsen, R-Minot
State Sen. Oley Larsen, R-Minot
File photo
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MINOT, N.D. — Sen. Oley Larsen, a Republican from Minot and the most recent leader of the controversial and secretive Bastiat Caucus of Trump-loyal lawmakers in the Legislature, will not be seeking re-election.

Larsen has held that seat since first being elected in 2010.

He wasn't immediately available for comment, but Rep. Bob Paulson, who also represents Minot's District 3, confirmed the decision to me. Paulson will be seeking the NDGOP endorsement for Larsen's seat at next week's district convention.

"Oley asked me to take his spot," Paulson told me, though he said he had some hesitation before agreeing.

"I was very happy in the House," he said.


In related news, former state Rep. Roscoe Streyle, who previously served District 3 in the state House from 2011 to 2018, has filed to run for a House seat there again. He confirmed to me this morning that he had sent his paperwork in to the Secretary of State's Office.

Larsen's tenure in the Senate has been ... colorful.

When he stands up to speak during floor debates, it's usually a wild ride. During the 2021 regular session he rose to speak on legislation related to so-called "road trains" and ended up giving remarks about, uh, "snail trails."

In 2019 he published a Facebook meme falsely suggesting that Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Democrat, was trained by al-Qaida .

He later defended the post by arguing that while Omar herself might not be a terrorist, she's sympathetic to them .

Oley Larsen Ilhan Omar Collage
North Dakota state Sen. Oley Larsen (R-Minot, top right) claimed U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN, bottom left) was trained by al Qaeda in an October Facebook post.
Collage by Rob Port

For the last couple of years, Larsen has been the head of the so-called "Bastiat Caucus" of Republican lawmakers in Bismarck that was founded by state Rep. Rick Becker. That group thinks of itself as representing true conservatives in the Legislature though not all Republicans agree with that characterization.

As a political force, it has a spotty track record of success.

The caucus threw its weight behind policies such a statewide ban on mask mandates which not only passed but also survived Gov. Doug Burgum's veto. They weren't as successful, however, in stopping one of their own, disgraced former lawmaker Luke Simons, from being expelled amid accusations of a long history of sexual harassment.


The group is secretive and refuses to divulge its members, though Larsen has publicly acknowledged his leadership role over the past few years.

The future of the Bastiat Caucus is very much an open question. Becker has vigorously pursued a primary challenge to incumbent Republican Sen. John Hoeven, exposing many of the cracks between the Bastiats and the rest of the North Dakota Republican Party.

If Becker's campaign is successful — and, to be clear, it can be successful without Becker getting the nomination — it may spur more lawmakers to openly align themselves with the Bastiats.

If Becker flames out, we may see the movement begin to fade.

“We felt it important to voice together our concerns about this measure,” said North Dakota Farmers Union President Mark Watne in a statement his group released jointly with the NDFB. “At Farmers Union, we have longstanding policy that opposes term limits because they are a limitation on the rights of citizens to choose and elect their public officials. Term limits also put more power into the hands of professional lobbyists and career bureaucrats.”

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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