Plain Talk: 'It definitely got weird,' Beadle says of hotly-contested state treasurer's race

Rep. Thomas Beadle, R-Fargo, during floor debate Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, at the state Capitol in Bismarck. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune

The political parties didn't hold their traditional biannual state conventions. The candidates were constrained in their ability to campaign in person. All of the voting was done by mail. The President of the United States endorsed in a down-ballot primary race for a sleepy executive branch office with little influence over actual public policy.

This primary season was probably the most unusual in North Dakota's history.

State Rep. Tom Beadle (R-Fargo) looks to have won the primary for state treasurer over his opponent, Rep. Dan Johnston (R-Kathryn), and on this episode of Plain Talk he spoke out about what it was like to campaign amid coronavirus, and against a candidate who has Donald Trump on his side.

"It definitely got weird," Beadle told me. He said at one point, the personal attacks against him — from Johnston's supporters if not the candidate himself — got very ugly and very personal. "I saw social media posts, not from my opponent's campaign but certainly from his supporters, that were attacking my wife and I for not being blessed with children yet," he said. "They were saying there is no way we could understand and support family values because we don't have kids ourselves."


Gov. Doug Burgum backed Beadle in a big way, a part of a roughly $2 million effort on his behalf to promote his preferred candidates in the NDGOP primary.

"I'm very grateful for the support the governor had for my candidacy," Beadle said.

What would he say to those arguing that Burgum bought the election? "I'm a believer that we're the grand old party, a big-tent party," Beadle said, noting that those complaining about the governor's efforts were involved in the Liberty ND PAC.

That group, apparently now defunct , was supported by the libertarian-leaning wing of the NDGOP.

Beadle also continues to support Trump, despite the president's endorsement of Johnston. "One thing I can say is this administration has been fantastic for North Dakota."

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

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 Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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