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Port: Rick Becker officially leaves the Republican Party behind

This seems like an inflection point for the trajectory of Becker's political career the NDGOP.

RICK BECKER
State Rep. Rick Becker, a Republican from Bismarck, speaks at the 2016 NDGOP state convention in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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MINOT, N.D. — When a candidate runs for federal office, one of the first things they have to do is file, with the FEC, what's called an F2A form.

This is their statement of candidacy. It includes things like which office they're running for, contact information for their campaign, the names of campaign officials like a treasurer or chairman, and their partisan affiliation.

The filing doesn't typically get a lot of information because. It's the sort of bureaucratic busywork that takes place in the background of a campaign.

Back in February, Rick Becker filed an F2A for his campaign for the U.S. Senate, identifying himself as a Republican.

At the time he was taking on incumbent Republican John Hoeven, challenging him for the endorsement of delegates at the North Dakota Republican Party's state convention.

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He lost that endorsement, and despite promises at the time to respect the vote of the delegates, he's since decided to take on their chosen candidate in the general election as an independent. This prompted NDGOP party chairman Perrie Schafer to say that Becker has "decided to leave the Republican Party."

Becker has disputed this, claiming that he's still a Republican, but it's hard to argue with paperwork.

Today, having collected and submitted the requisite petition signatures, Becker filed an amended F2A with the FEC so that he could change his party affiliation from "Republican" to "independent."

Up to this point, Becker leaving the Republican party behind was just talk. Now, with this filing, it's official.

Rick Becker's amended statement of candidacy as filed with the FEC on 09/12/2022.
Rick Becker's amended statement of candidacy as filed with the FEC on 09/12/2022.
Screenshot of official document

This seems like an inflection point for the trajectory of Becker's political career and the North Dakota Republican Party.

For about a decade now, Becker has organized a minority faction of the NDGOP that has long deemed themselves the "true conservatives" with everyone else being Republicans-In-Name-Only.

Becker's rump caucus got a shot in the arm from disgraced former President Donald Trump's appeal to angry right-of-center Americans which roiled the Republican party both nationally and locally.

Becker, ever the opportunist, morphed himself from a socially liberal, libertarian-minded lawmaker who was halfway embarrassed to have a partisan affiliation to a rabid populist culture warrior eager, pandering to fundamentalists and portraying himself as a living, breathing avatar of Republicanism.

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But much of the appeal of both Trump, and Becker, is rooted in their affiliation with the Republican party. Their supporters delight, again, in casting themselves as the true Republicans who are fighting to take the party back from the "establishment RINOs."

Except, now Becker has left the party, both symbolically and literally.

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He went back on his promise to respect the vote of his fellow Republicans, a majority of whom chose a different candidate for the U.S. Senate at convention, and now he's officially left the party, filing paperwork to challenge the chosen Republican candidate on the statewide ballot.

I don't think Becker will win the Senate race. He could maybe take second, beating out Democratic-NPL candidate Katrina Christiansen, and that would be feat. It's not often an independent candidate can finish ahead of a major party candidate.

If it happens, that's probably Becker's high water mark. "I don't think he's going to do as well as he thinks he does," Sen. Kevin Cramer, himself a former chairman of the NDGOP, said on my Plain Talk podcast last week, and I agree, but I'm more interested in what comes next for Becker after the Senate race.

He'd no doubt like continue leading a political movement in the state, but I suspect his ability to do so will be compromised. Having lost to Hoeven twice, and after leaving the Republican party behind, trying to defeat the candidate chosen by party delegates and officially changing his party affiliation on the ballot, I suspect a lot of the conservatives and Republicans who have been supporting him might be ready to move on.

"I've talked to a number of Republican supporters of Rick Becker and they're disappointed," Cramer said on the podcast.

Leaving the party to lose to Hoeven on the general ballot isn't likely to help much with that disappointment.

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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