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Port: Rick Becker rides a dinosaur and fights an octopus

That last thing we need is another political leader with a god complex.

A coloring book depiction of state Rep. Rick Becker riding a dinosaur.
A depiction of state Rep. Rick Becker riding a dinosaur. The image was part a coloring book distributed by Becker's U.S. Senate campaign to delegates at the NDGOP's 2022 state convention.
Becker Campaign
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MINOT, N.D. — Shall we do one final wrap-up of the NDGOP convention? Because now, a bit more removed from the culmination of that event, I have some more information and insights to offer.

Let's start here: If only Rick Becker had meant what he said about unity when he took the stage at the North Dakota Republican Party's 2022 state convention to concede the U.S. Senate endorsement to John Hoeven.

He said the word "unity."

He also urged his supporters to "keep fighting" in some imagined "war."

These are, in context, contradictory ideas.

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Becker delivered his supposed "concession" maybe 45 minutes before a man wearing a Becker button accosted me outside the convention hall as I was putting away my podcasting equipment. This man began cursing at me so loudly that a woman nearby, who was attending to some children, went to fetch security. When I asked this guy to step away from me, he instead stepped closer and shouted at me, "I'll do any f------ thing I want. You'd better watch what you write or I'll come find you."

Delegates, too, were subjected to some ugly rhetoric after Becker's loss. Some person or group — and it's not clear if it was the Becker campaign or just supporters — was sending text messages to delegates in the lead up to the convention with information on how to support Becker's candidacy and agenda.

After the convention, delegates began getting some nasty messages, including one send Sunday morning suggesting NDGOP party chair Perrie Schafer's "days are numbered."

Dozens of delegates sent me screenshots of the message they received:

NDGOP Post-Convention Text
A screenshot of a text message sent to delegates who attended the NDGOP's 2022 state convention.
Provided

If Becker is promoting a "unity" message, I'm not sure his followers are hearing it.

Nor is it at all clear that Becker wants unity. On social media, he was doing the opposite of conceding. "This was not a defeat," he wrote on Facebook before urging supporters to "keep fighting."

Maybe Becker should cool it with the "keep fighting" stuff lest someone ends up getting hurt.

Though Becker is so ensconced in his cult-like following of acolytes that I'm not sure he's living in the same version of reality as the rest of us. Take, for example, what has to be one of the oddest political artifacts I've ever come across.

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It's a coloring book distributed to convention delegates by Becker's campaign.

At first blush it seems like a fun and endearingly quirky idea until you start looking at some of the content in the pages. One of the convention delegates gave up their copy of the coloring book to me and I scanned:

My column reacting to Hoeven's win at the convention accused Becker of a "superhero shtick" based on his speech to delegates in which he argued that to save America they must elect Rick Becker.

That was before I saw the coloring book.

This guy thinks he's an Avenger or something, and I'm not writing that as a joke.

In his coloring book, Becker depicts himself fighting dinosaurs and a giant octopus and also riding an enormous bald eagle. Later he's riding the dinosaur flanked by cats and jackalopes with laser beams shooting out of their eyes.

You're not Captain America, Rick Becker.

You're not even Hawkeye.

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Another oddity from the coloring book is Warren G. Harding being named one of Becker's favorite presidents. The man was either an unwitting dope who allowed his administration to become one of the most corrupt in American history, or he was a witting accomplice.

Either way, he's not someone to admire.

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If there's some red line that Trump could cross, some depth he could stoop to in words or action, that would cost him the support of North Dakota's delegation, he doesn't seem to have crossed it yet.

If this were any other politician the coloring book would come off as a joke.

But coming from someone who says his election will literally save America ?

It's an act of narcissism that's so off the charts, even for the world of politics where big egos are a given, that we ought to get a restraining order requiring Becker to stay 500 feet away from any elected office anywhere.

That last thing we need is another political leader with a god complex.

Still, there's no denying Becker performed well, at least in the hothouse environment of the convention hall. He received almost 45 percent of the delegate vote against a man who is, arguably, the most successful and popular political figure in our state's history.

Sen. Ray Holmberg drew the map below showing which candidate won in each legislative district (Becker yellow, Hoeven red), and it's interesting to consider, because it's as misleading as it is insightful.

Misleading because of population. Each legislative district has approximately the same population, but to achieve that balance their geographical sizes vary greatly. The very large rural districts show up on a map like this, while the tiny urban districts in places like Bismarck, Minot, Fargo, and Grand Forks can barely be seen.

But the value in this map is that it shows that a lot of the assumptions some of made about the split in the NDGOP - that's it's rural versus urban, or east versus west - just aren't true.

Both candidates earned delegates from districts east and west, rural and urban.

Becker vs. Hoeven legislative district map
A colored-in map of North Dakota's legislative districts showing which candidate won in each district in the NDGOP convention endorsement race between Sen. John Hoeven and state Rep. Rick Becker. The districts Becker won are in yellow. Those Hoeven won are in red.
Photo provided by Sen. Ray Holmberg

Becker backers will be touting the almost 45% figure their candidate earned at the convention for years into the future, but it means less than they want it to mean.

Had this race gone to the June primary (and for many reasons I wish it had) Hoeven would have won in a landslide. I suspect the map above would have been almost entirely red.

I spoke to many Becker delegates at the convention who are convinced that their candidate represents the sort of leadership most North Dakotans actually want, and I just don't believe that to be true. A statewide vote between Becker and Hoeven would have proved that, I think, but Becker made it clear that he wouldn't campaign for the June primary if he lost at the convention, and perhaps that's on purpose.

Perhaps he didn't want the myth of his widespread appeal shattered.

Which is the lesson for Republicans concerned about the rise this political movement centered around Becker's ambitions: Be careful not to overreact.

The Republicans who want to continue the sort of pragmatic and principled Republican leadership that has led to three decades worth of success in state politics need to keep showing up at their local districts and opposing Becker's movement lest they find themselves members of an NDGOP that has become a Trumpian caricature of itself.

But also remember that this sort of a movement, a cult of personality that uses bullying and intimidation and procedural tricks to get its way, doesn't have a long shelf life.

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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