Port: NDGOP opts not to move convention, will begin charging candidates seeking endorsement

Amid some drama from a small faction of NDGOP leaders who walked out of the committee meeting, the party changed some of its rules around how it endorses candidates.

PHOTO: NDGOP Headquarters
The sign for the North Dakota Republican Party headquarters sits along East Boulevard Avenue near the state Capitol in Bismarck.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service
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MINOT, N.D. — The North Dakota Republican Party held a meeting of its state committee Saturday to consider two proposals that have stirred controversy among the state's Republicans.

One, which I wrote earlier this week , would have moved the state party's state convention from the spring to after the June 6 primary vote. The other would expand the prerequisites for candidates seeking endorsements at the statewide convention, requiring them to pay fees to the state party, collect more signatures from the chairs of local district committees, and not have participated in another party for the last decade.

The first proposal failed, and the second succeeded with some amendments, but not before there was some drama from party leaders associated with the Bastiat Caucus-wing of the NDGOP.

PHOTO: NDGOP District 40 chairman and "We the People" rally organizer Jay Lundeen shouts in the face of Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner
NDGOP District 40 chairman and "We the People" rally organizer Jay Lundeen shouts in the face of Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson).
(Screenshot from public Facebook video)

Before the votes Jay Lundeen, the chair of District 40 who can be seen in this video getting shouty in the face of Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R - Dickinson), stood up to deliver a speech condemning the votes before he and a small number of other state committee members walked out.

Lundeen objected to the party holding the vote with interim district chairs, appointed by NDGOP Chairman Perrie Schafer because of the redistricting plan approved by the Legislature last month, and then led the pre-arranged walkout followed by:


  • District 6 chair Reed Kramer
  • District 10 chair Paul Henderson
  • District 38 chair Jared Hendrix
  • District 14 chair Bill Kuntz
  • District 24 chair Dan Johnston
  • District 5 vice-chair Mike Blessum, acting in proxy
  • National Committeewoman Lori Hinz

The Republicans living in these districts, who chose these people to represent them, ought to consider that instead of staying in the room to participate in the votes taken by the State Committee today, they chose instead to engage in an ego-stroking performance after which they stood outside tell themselves they did the right thing while the grownups stayed inside and did grownup things.
Here's some video of what that pathetic spectacle looked like, sent in by a reader. The man you hear talking the most is Lundeen, who was aggrandizing this moment of petulance into something for the history books:

As an aside, maybe we need a better name for the Bastiat Caucus? After today's shenanigans, I'm thinking the "Cry Baby Caucus" might be more fitting.

My chief complaint with this faction of the NDGOP is that they're obsessed with performative politics. They prefer agitation and chaos to substantive discourse and policymaking.

Today they proved just how apt that criticism is.

Anyway, back to the rule changes, I'm happy the party opted not to move the convention. I understand why some wanted to move it - the conventions have become victim to the machinations of a small but active group of fringe activists as anyone who has participated in one recently knows - but the solution for that is participation. If you don't like the direction the NDGOP is heading, if you're worried about a takeover from the fringe, then get involved. Don't try to change the rules.

As for the prerequisites for candidates seeking endorsements, the new rule is:

  • Candidates must secure signatures from 10 district chairs (it's currently 5)
  • Candidates for the U.S. Senate or gubernatorial races must pay $5,000 to the party
  • Candidates for the U.S. House must pay $3,500
  • Candidates for statewide executive branch offices must pay $2,500

Again, I understand the motivation for the change - state convention delegates in recent years have had to endure long-winded harangues from the stage issued by fringe candidates taking advantage of the party's low threshold for participation - but this smacks of pay to play.
It sends the wrong message.

There has to be a better way to filter candidates so that delegates need only consider those who are actually serious.

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 Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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