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Port: After furor at district conventions, Trumpists are unlikely to get control of the NDGOP

Current NDGOP chairman Rick Berg is not running for another term, and just one person is openly running to be his replacement.

PHOTO: NDGOP Headquarters
The sign for the North Dakota Republican Party headquarters sits along East Boulevard Avenue near the state Capitol in Bismarck. (Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service)
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service file photo
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MINOT, N.D. — At the dawn of every new cycle North Dakota's political parties reorganize themselves.

Local, district-level party committees elect new leadership, and then that leadership elects leaders at the statewide level.

Normally this process plays out quietly, with little fanfare outside of the picayune rivalries and intrigues of deeply local politicking. This spring, things were different.

Republican district committees across the state saw their normally pacific reorganization meetings infiltrated by activists. Some were political veterans, others newcomers who showed a degree of bewilderment about what they'd been caught up in. Many of each category were organized by Minot-based district chairman Jared Hendrix through his political consulting entity .

Hendrix, who came to North Dakota as a part of one of former Texas Congressman Ron Paul's quixotic campaigns for the presidency, is also an organizing influence behind the Legislature's Bastiat Caucus of Trump-aligned lawmakers.


The goal of the movement he's helped stoke has been a takeover of the leadership of the North Dakota Republican Party.

Yet despite the anger and furor at some of the local reorganizations — one tactic implemented has been to censure lawmakers for voting against Bastiat-backed bills and for the expulsion of Bastiat lawmaker Luke Simons amid accusations of sexual harassment — the statewide NDGOP seems headed toward a relatively placid reorganization meeting.

There is a lot of Sturm und Drang from certain Facebook cranks and gadflies about organizing a big turnout of Trumpy activists in Medora, where the meeting is scheduled to occur over the Father's Day weekend, but such a turnout is unlikely to change anything.

The people with a say in the reorganization of the NDGOP's state party are the elected leaders of the district parties.

The aforementioned district takeovers organized by Hendrix and other Trumpists weren't terribly successful. By my count, they lost ground in controlling district-level leadership positions and thus lost influence in the direction of the NDGOP.

Former congressman and current NDGOP chairman Rick Berg is not running for another term in that position. There had been rumors that former Bastiat Caucus lawmaker Dan Johnston , who lost the party's nomination for Treasurer despite a Twitter endorsement from Donald Trump himself, might run for chairman with the backing of the new district leadership Hendrix helped elect, but there has been no evidence that he's campaigning for the position.

Mandan resident and Environmental Services CEO, Perrie Schafer, a long-time member of the NDGOP, is one candidate for chairman. He's what I call a Normie, which is to say a more traditional pre-Trump era Republican and may well win the position unopposed.

The other, who just announced today, is a man named Bob Wheeler, whose only discernible qualification for the job seems to be his burgeoning library of Facebook videos of himself engaging in various politically-themed diatribes.


By way of providing some insight into his character, here's his current Facebook profile photo:

EMBED: Bob Wheeler Facebook photo
A screenshot of NDGOP chairman candidate Bob Wheeler's Facebook profile picture

Wheeler ran for the Legislature in the last election cycle. He was defeated in District 8's primary race for the House of Representatives. He took 4th place, having raised just $1,850.

The Trumpy/Bastiat Caucus wing of the NDGOP set out this spring to take over the party, but if they're placing their bets on Mr. Wheeler, they may well enter the summer wielding less influence than ever.

Which isn't to say there won't be some intrigue in Medora.


At least two censure resolutions are being circulated.

District 10 Chairman Paul Henderson, who also serves as the Region II Chairman on the NDGOP's executive committee, is looking to censure Vice-Chair Carma Hanson for failing to vote on the NDGOP's resolutions during the last statewide convention process (hundreds of Republicans failed to vote on those).

Another potential resolution would censure National Committeewoman Lori Hinz, very much a member of the Trumpy/Bastiat wing, for being too critical of other Republicans.

Those petty initiatives aside, it seems that, despite clear evidence of fracturing in the NDGOP driven by an increasingly active Trump-aligned wing of the party, the leadership of North Dakota's dominant political party will remain about the same.

Which perhaps shouldn't surprise us.

Being indignant on Facebook is easy.

Building a political movement that can attain and maintain influence is hard, especially when your modus operandi is angry denunciation of anyone not sufficiently loyal to Donald Trump.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

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

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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