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Port: NDGOP chairman rips 'rogue' group promoting rule changes at upcoming state convention

"This group has improperly used logos and images from the NDGOP’s official website on its website and press releases to mislead delegates into believing it is associated with the NDGOP," NDGOP Chairman Perrie Schafer wrote to delegates. "I want to make clear to you that these communications are not from the NDGOP and do not represent the NDGOP State Committee’s position on the applicable rules for this weekend’s Convention, and the NDGOP has not consented to or authorized this rogue group’s use of the NDGOP’s logos and images."

5111-8742r Perrie Schafer.jpg
NDGOP chairman Perrie Schafer
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MINOT, N.D. — With the NDGOP's state convention set to kick off Friday, party chairman Perrie Schafer is disavowing messages sent to delegates from what he describes as a "rogue group" promoting sweeping rule changes.

I wrote about these rule changes earlier this week . They're being promoted by supporters of Senate candidate Rick Becker, who has a decent chance of winning the endorsement of the state convention but isn't likely to win against popular incumbent Sen. John Hoeven in the June primary.

Under state law, the June primary vote chooses which candidates represent the parties on the ballot. The candidates endorsed at the party conventions are automatically placed on that ballot. All other challengers must collect signatures to get ballot access.

Schafer says the group, calling itself the "Ad Hoc NDGOP 2022 Convention Rules Committee," is misleading the delegates.

"This 'Ad Hoc' group is not recognized or sanctioned by the North Dakota Republican Party (“NDGOP”). This group has improperly used logos and images from the NDGOP’s official website on its website and press releases to mislead delegates into believing it is associated with the NDGOP," Schafer wrote to delegates. "I want to make clear to you that these communications are not from the NDGOP and do not represent the NDGOP State Committee’s position on the applicable rules for this weekend’s Convention, and the NDGOP has not consented to or authorized this rogue group’s use of the NDGOP’s logos and images. The NDGOP is exploring all legal options to ensure that this group, and any others wishing to harm the NDGOP and its values, are prevented from doing so."

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The email from the "Ad Hoc" group was sent to delegates on the morning of Wednesday, March 30. It invited them to review proposed rules posted at www.NDGOPRules.org.

The email claims the rule changes are about protecting the rights of delegates.

"Our Rules maintain 90% of past party Rules, but make key changes that clearly reinforce your rights as delegates to determine the proceedings of this convention — i.e. the rights of the delegates to determine the Rules, Platform and nominees of the NDGOP," the email states.

Yet it's clear that Becker, should he win at the convention, would be the beneficiary of the changes, which is why Jared Hendrix, a paid consultant for Becker's campaign as well as a district chairman in Minot, was promoting these rules to Minot-area delegates this week .

By the way, the mailing address for the Ad Hoc committee? It's a post office box in Minot.

Becker's supporters are investing a lot of energy into something that just isn't possible.

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Setting aside for a moment the fact that the primary process is enshrined in state law that cannot be amended by a rule change approved by delegates at a political party convention, Schafer argues that the NDGOP's own bylaws prevent this change.

"The Convention has already been called by the State Chairman and the Executive Committee under the current State Committee Rules. The State Committee Rules require that prior notice of any proposed amendments to the Rules be given 15 days before the Convention," he wrote in his email to delegates. "No one, including the rogue 'Ad Hoc' group, has given the required 15-day prior notice of any proposed amendments. Any motion that conflicts with the State Committee Rules and state law will be ruled out of order and will not be considered."

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State law says this isn't possible. Section 16.1-11-01 of the North Dakota Century Code states: "On the second Tuesday in June of every general election year, a primary election must be held for the nomination of candidates..."

The NDGOP's own rules say this isn't possible, as Schafer notes.

But even beyond that, as a practical matter of process, how in the world is it fair to change the rules of the candidate selection process in the middle of that process?

If these are the rules Becker and his crew wanted to play by, they had plenty of time to speak up about it before we reached this point in the election cycle.

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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