Port: The NDGOP shouldn't have endorsed in the superintendent race

Superintendent of Schools Kirsten Baesler and Underwood Superintendent of Schools Brandt Dick.
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MINOT, N.D. -- At a retreat in Medora, the State Committee of the North Dakota Republican Party endorsed incumbent Superintendent of Schools Kirsten Baesler over her challenger, Underwood Superintendent of Schools Brandt Dick.

I wish they hadn't.

Baesler had a rocky start to this election cycle with an arrest and conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol , not to mention a rough tenure in her current office. In 2015 she was arrested for assault, though not ultimately convicted , after an alcohol-fueled fight with a man who was her boyfriend at the time.

The incumbent's flaws, however, are not why the NDGOP should have refrained from an endorsement in Medora.

Earlier this year, citing the challenges of holding an event with multiple competitive endorsement battles amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Republicans canceled their state convention.


They issued letters of endorsement to the candidates running unopposed for the party's nomination, and then let the June primary vote settle the matter in the competitive races.

Not even Gov. Doug Burgum, facing an unserious challenge for the nomination from frequent fringe candidate Michael Coachman, got an endorsement letter before the primary.

The situation with Baesler was a bit different.

The superintendent position is officially non-partisan, though traditionally, both parties endorse candidates. The June vote wasn't a nomination but rather a winnowing. The top two vote-getters have advanced to the November ballot, and both are Republicans.

Baesler has sought and won the NDGOP's endorsement in past cycles, Dick has sought it this year.

The NDGOP's state committee -- which includes party leadership as well as district-level chairs -- chose Baesler over Dick on the assumption, I believe, that since the primary was over, they ought to endorse the winner.

But the June vote wasn't a partisan primary.

The choice the NDGOP's state committee had before it was between two very experienced people who both align themselves as Republicans.


Should that sort of a decision have been left to the state committee? Especially given Baesler's genuine public perception problems?

In an alternate timeline, where we weren't living with the coronavirus, this decision would have been made by a convention of Republican delegates representing districts from around the state.

Since that couldn't happen, the NDGOP should have found a way to communicate with its rank-and-file members to weigh in on this endorsement.

Or, barring that, maybe they shouldn't have endorsed at all this cycle.

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

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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