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Port: NDGOP candidate for Treasurer has also accepted his local district's endorsement for the Legislature

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Rep. Daniel Johnston (R-Kathryn), pictured here in October 2019. (Photo via Facebook)

MINOT, N.D. -- Dan Johnston is a candidate for the NDGOP's nomination for Treasurer.

He is also a sitting member of the state Legislature, representing District 24 in the House.

For the Treasurer nomination, Johnston is competing against fellow lawmaker Thomas Beadle, a Republican from Fargo.

Johnston's legislative seat is on the ballot this cycle, as are the seats in all of the state's even-numbered districts, and it seems he has accepted his local party's endorsement to run for that seat again.

Candidates for partisan office can put themselves on the June primary ballot in one of two ways: They can accept the endorsement of a political party, receiving a certificate of endorsement they can turn over to the Secretary of State's office, or they can submit the requisite number of petition signatures.

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NDGOP candidates in contested statewide primary races, like Johnston, have to submit signatures since the state party canceled their endorsing convention (the party is issuing certificates to candidates running uncontested on the June ballot). District-level party organizations, however, still have until April 6 to issue a certificate.

That's the deadline for qualifying for the June ballot.

Johnston isn't returning my phone calls, but Rep. Dwight Kiefert, who also represents District 24 as a Republican, confirmed the endorsement to me this morning.

Kiefert said the District 24 Republicans held an endorsing convention online by way of a video conferencing system. He said the result of that vote endorsed Johnston to run for another term in the House. "He's also running for the Treasurer, and I guess there's no conflict," Kiefert told me.

Yet there does seem to be a conflict. Chapter 16.1-11-05.1 of the North Dakota Century Code states, in part, that "no person may accept endorsement for nomination by certificate or petition to more than one office."

EMBED: Excerpt of ND Century Code governing nominations

As you can see, there is an exemption to that prohibition, but it's for state electors (the people who represent North Dakota in the Electoral College vote) and local, non-partisan office. The latter meaning that someone could serve in the Legislature as well as on, say, their local park board.

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But as it stands now, Johnston is seeking to be on the June ballot for two separate partisan offices. One a partisan legislative seat, the other a statewide partisan office.

There is also a state Attorney General's opinion, issued in 1986 by then-Attorney General Nicholas Spaeth, addressed this issue, concluding that a candidate cannot submit petitions (or certificates of endorsement) to appear on the June primary ballot more than once.

You can read the opinion here .

An excerpt:

EMBED: 1986 AG's Opinion About Appearing On Ballot

"I don't know enough about it," Beadle said when I reached him for comment, though he did add that his "understanding has always been that you can't be on the ballot for two different partisan races."

Beadle represents District 27 in the state House and isn't up for re-election for that seat this cycle.

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Lee Ann Oliver, head of the Secretary of State's elections division, told me she hasn't yet received a certificate or petition signatures for Johnston's candidacy in the District 24 race, but the deadline for those things is 4 p.m. on April 6.

Oliver also said it's her understanding that candidates can't be on the June ballot for two different partisan races.

Why would Johnston seek the nomination for two different offices?

I suspect he's hedging his bets. The District 24 Republicans already have two other legislative candidates. I'm told they were holding the third slot open for Johnston in case he lost the state party's endorsement for Treasurer at the convention.

But the convention didn't happen, and District 24 endorsed him for the Legislature anyway, which leaves in my mind a strong inkling that he may be going to drop out of the Treasurer's race. Especially since, if he were to drop the legislative campaign, he'd be leaving his local party with little time to recruit and endorse a new candidate.

As I've mentioned, there's a deadline looming, so we'll know one way or another soon. But I don't think, based on the law, that Johnston can go past April 6 running for both of these offices at the same time.

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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