Port: Pay attention to Shelley Lenz

Now that Labor Day has come and gone, the spotlight is going to be on Lenz, and I suspect a lot of North Dakotans will like what they see.

Dr. Shelley Lenz, DVM, Ph.D., stands in the examination room of State Avenue Vet Clinic. She recently returned from a humanitarian trip to Uganda.(Linda Sailer/The Dickinson Press)
Dr. Shelley Lenz stands in the examination room of State Avenue Vet Clinic. Linda Sailer / Forum News Service

MINOT, N.D. — North Dakotans on the left side of the political spectrum have had a tough couple of weeks.

They've had to suffer through the uncomfortable spectacle of one of their candidates for statewide office, Travisia Martin, getting disqualified. The Democratic-NPL fought to keep Martin on the ballot, leaning on the goofy legal machinations of David Thompson, their candidate for attorney general last cycle, but ultimately they couldn't out-maneuver reality.

Martin voted in Nevada in 2016. Unless she was willing to cop to casting an illegal ballot — a felony in that state — her vote means she was a resident of Nevada in 2016 and did not satisfy North Dakota's five-year residency requirement for statewide office.

After the state Supreme Court cast Martin off the ballot, the Democrats tried to back a new candidate under a law that allows a political party to replace a candidate who cannot run because they died or became ineligible. This was another Thompson-organized performance, and it failed, too, because Martin could hardly stop being eligible for an office she was never eligible for in the first place.

The Martin debacle came on the heels of the Supreme Court also disqualifying a ballot measure making sweeping changes to North Dakota's election laws. Billed, erroneously, as bipartisan, this was an attempt by left-wing interests, frustrated by a couple of generations worth of Democratic losses at the ballot box, to change the election rules making it easier for left-wing candidates to win.


There is a part of me that is disappointed this measure didn't get crushed on its merits at the ballot box, but its organizers didn't follow the law.

Do not despair, Democrats. You still have a very interesting candidate at the top of your ticket.

I'm talking about Shelley Lenz, who is taking on incumbent Republican Gov. Doug Burgum.

Lenz is from western North Dakota. The Killdeer and Dickinson areas, specifically. That's significant for a party that holds zero elected offices west of Bismarck.

What's more, Lenz seems to actually like North Dakota, unlike many of her fellow Democrats who seem to thrive on lecturing us about how backward our state has become.

She is friendly and charming, and willing to engage her critics, including this one.

I don't think Lenz will win. She still belongs to a political party that most North Dakotans don't trust. While Burgum has earned himself some critics, including among other Republicans, I suspect most voters are happy enough with his job performance.

I don't want Lenz to win, either. I like her, personally, but her policy platform, in the rare instances where it provides specifics, is not one I'm comfortable with as a conservative.


Still, now that Labor Day has come and gone, the spotlight is going to be on Lenz, and I suspect a lot of North Dakotans will like what they see.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Related Topics: DOUG BURGUMELECTION 2020
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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