TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — The Heidi-Kevin Show

OK, people, I’m warning you, I took Ambien, so anything could happen. Then again, I might simply nod off.

It would be much worse if you nodded off. Now would be a perfect time for that energy drink, or if you want something less stimulating, crack cocaine.

I now keep my energy drinks in a gun safe because of what is cryptically known as “The Incident,” which took place in 2003, during a birthday party for preschoolers at our house. The best way to describe what happened is to imagine a locked room filled with 19 cats, 14 laying hens, a Roomba and Gary Busey.

Technically, this column has nothing to do with energy drinks or Gary Busey. So why bring it up? A couple of reasons. One, Gary Busey needs the publicity, and two, I am contractually obligated to produce 750 words each week. The good news is, I get paid $100 a word. (This is how you make $800.)

It’s a very strict contract. I don’t really understand it all but according to my agent, it’s intertwined with international trade, geopolitics and veterinary science. All I know is once when I stopped at 500 words, the soybean market plummeted, Russia annexed Crimea and my neighbor’s cat choked on a mouse.

It may be the effects of the Ambien, but it feels like I woke up in Bizarro World today, where Superman is evil, Lex Luthor is the good guy and George Costanza works for the Red Sox.

Last week, we learned that the Koch Brothers, the Darth Vaders of conservative causes, donated to Heidi Heitkamp’s campaign. Yes, that Heidi Heitkamp — the one whose votes in support of Trump policies are insufficiently sincere, according to conservative radio talkers in North Dakota. The same Heidi Heitkamp who may have personally pulled Will Gardner’s pants down and pushed him in front of windows at an North Dakota State University girls dorm.

Why are we still talking about Will Gardner? Because Republicans won’t let it die! This issue is like a vampire. Or more appropriately in this case, Lazarus. It keeps rising from the dead.

On talk radio, we’ve learned that God can forgive anything — peeping, infidelity, lying, violations of the Emoluments Clause, Russian collusion, excessive golfing — anything except gayness and liberalism. We’ve also learned that college girls are seductresses — modern-day sirens shipwrecking otherwise devout Republicans on the rocks of desire. Only one man is immune. Mike Pence. He’s like college girl kryptonite.

Inexplicably, last week, Kevin Cramer joined the Apologist Choir of Holy Holiness, which has been suggesting Gardner was clutching his Catechism while the former GOP secretary of state candidate was leering at coeds, panting like a wiener dog on a hot day.

Personally, I was done talking about this, but now that they brought it up, what drives a man to voyeurism? Energy drinks? A bad Internet connection?

And what drove Cramer to shoot himself in the foot? Was he trying to impress the NRA? Did his left foot cause him to sin? At any rate, it prompted his campaign manager, Pat Finken, doing his best Sarah Huckabee Sanders impression, to issue a statement explaining what Cramer really meant, which was that he didn’t really mean what he said, thereby illustrating that he’s the perfect politician for these perilous times.

Meanwhile, Heidi’s campaign campaign strategy seems to be that she’s Donald Trump’s BFF and almost as good a Republican as Cramer, except she doesn’t support window peepers.

You might think that as a progressive pointing this out, I’ve lost my mind or failed to read the daily top-secret talking points sent to all liberals, but the reality is, in a state in which 11 out of 10 people are expected to vote Republican in November, Heidi is doing exactly what she needs to do, much to the chagrin of unrealistic, idealistic Democrats and insane conservative talk show hosts.

That whole last sentence was an exercise in redundancy. It also made me $6,900. If only Heidi had supported the tax cut.

Cramer, apparently rattled by Heitkamp’s recent photo-ops with Trump and the fact that they Snapchat daily, also further distanced himself from common sense by criticizing Trump’s legislative director. I’m not saying he’s come unglued, but he’s looking as grim as a man drinking unsweetened Kool-Aid. Someone should hide his shoelaces. On the bright side, he didn’t call Ivanka Trump any bad names.

Kevin Cramer is being out-Republican-ed by Heidi Heitkamp, and that ain’t easy.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Who’s Got Money, Who Doesn’t? And Who Didn’t File A Report?

AND THE WINNER IS … Ryan Rauschenberger!

North Dakota’s election laws require all candidates for statewide and legislative offices to file campaign finance disclosure statements three times a year — before the primary election, before the general election and at the end of the year.

All contributions greater than $200 from an individual or a political action committee must be reported. In the case of statewide candidates, the total collected in smaller amounts must also be reported but names remain secret, allowing Democrats to give secret small donations to their Republican friends or neighbors, and vice versa, without being exposed. I admit, I’ve done it.

And then, statewide candidates also have to list their “cash on hand” with each report. That’s the contest Rauschenberger, our state tax commissioner, won. On May 11, 2018, Rauschenberger reported he had $110,097.02 in the bank, the most of any candidate in North Dakota, except for those running for U.S. Senate and House.

That’s a pretty significant accomplishment. But the timing of his fundraising is more interesting than the amount.

On Sept. 30 of last year, just three months before the start of the year in which he was scheduled to run for re-election, Rauschenberger had raised just $4,000 for his 2018 campaign. That night, (y’know, I’m tired of typing that long name, so I’m just going to use his first name from now on) Ryan went on a bender and got nailed for drunk driving. In the next three months, between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, Ryan raised $53,500 for his campaign.

And in the next four months after that, from January to May 2018, he raised another $48,000. Which means that, since the day he put his career as North Dakota state tax commissioner in jeopardy by getting arrested for drunk driving, he has raised more than $100,000 for his re-election campaign. Go figure.

Of course, with that stain on his record, he’s going to need it, and his opponent in the general election, Kylie Oversen, hasn’t done badly herself, with $28,000 in the bank so far. But she’s going to need a lot more than that. I don’t know what the key to Ryan’s fundraising prowess is, except that his father, Ron, is a longtime high-ranking figure in the North Dakota Republican Party, and maybe he helped. But he’s raised a ton of money IN SPITE OF his drunk driving arrest. Republicans donors are so forgiving.

I don’t know if Oversen is going to make the drunk driving conviction an issue or not, but there’s this video that keeps resurfacing on the internet, and it might make a pretty interesting TV spot. We’ll see how this plays out. TV costs a lot of money, and she’s going to need a lot more than $28,000.

So who else is on the winner’s list? Well, no surprise, they’re pretty much all Republicans, which makes sense, because the incumbents are all Republicans, and incumbents have an easier time raising money than challengers, generally.

In second place is Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, with $89,000 in the bank, followed closely by Public Service Commissioner Randy Christmann with $81,000.

Goehring got a head start. He had $69,000 left over from his 2014 re-election campaign against Ryan Taylor. That was a big-spending race, with Goehring raising $511,000 that year and Taylor $425,000. Goehring won by about 30,000 votes. Taylor has bowed out of elective politics — for now, anyway. But don’t be surprised …

Goehring’s added funds to his campaign each year since, but his 2018 opponent, Sen. Jim Dotzenrod, didn’t get into the race until the State Democratic-NPL Convention in March and reported raising just $1,000 so far.

Christmann, likewise, in office since 2012 because PSC members serve six-year terms, has taken advantage of incumbency and has raised at least $10,000 every year since 2014. Not surprisingly, much of his campaign money comes from energy interests and utilities, who have an interest in what the PSC does.

But there’s also a Democrat among the fundraising leaders — secretary of state candidate Josh Boschee, who right now appears to be the Democrats’ best shot at winning a statewide race given the chaos in the Republican Party in that race with their endorsed candidate Will Gardner peeking past the primary to the day he can withdraw and avoid any further embarrassment.

Josh has raised more than $80,000 and has almost $63,000 of it in the bank right now. What’s interesting about Boschee’s funds is that, unlike the Republican candidates, almost half of his money has come in small checks, under $200. Most of the Republican checks have four and even five numbers in them.

But with Boschee’s bank account, and the prospect of not having a candidate on the ballot in November (Al Jaeger will likely be there as an Independent), Republicans are rightfully nervous, to the point that their right-wing radio mouthpiece Scott Hennen took after the openly gay Boschee for being gay on the radio the other day, calling him a “sinner” for being gay. Better be careful, there, Scott, I’m pretty sure there’s more than one gay person on the statewide ballot, and they’re not all Democrats.

The only other statewide candidate with significant funds on hand is Brian Kroshus, the Public Service Commissioner appointed by Gov. Doug Burgum last year, with $43,500 in the bank. Kroshus’ money is an interesting case. In late 2015, he announced he was going to retire from his job as publisher of The Bismarck Tribune and run for North Dakota state auditor in 2016, to succeed the retiring Bob Peterson.

To show he was serious, he and his partner, Kim Jondahl, put $96,000 into the campaign account to get it going — Brian $45,000 and Kim $51,000. That might have been enough to get elected state auditor — if he had gotten the Republican Party’s endorsement. But he didn’t. A young bureaucrat named Josh Gallion came along and won the hearts of convention-goers and left Kroshus on the sidelines.

Kroshus had raised another $3,000 from supporters before the convention, so he had $99,000 available. But there’s a mystery. At the end of 2016, Kroshus had to file a campaign finance disclosure report, and he reported that he had only $31,000 remaining in his campaign account. Somehow he had managed to spend $68,000 of the $99,000. That must have been a pretty expensive preconvention campaign.

Or maybe he decided he and Kim had been a little too generous with the campaign and yanked some of it back. You can do that in North Dakota, you know. For now. A ballot measure being circulated right now for the 2018 general election would prohibit campaign funds from being converted to personal use. We’ll vote on that this fall if petitioners get enough signatures. And they’re sounding pretty confident.

Anyway, Kroshus transferred that leftover $31,000 from his auditor’s race to his PSC campaign, and with what he has raised since being in office, he brings about $43,500 into this campaign.

None of the other statewide office candidates have raised more than a few thousand dollars, including, surprisingly, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who reported having just $3,800 in cash on hand when the preprimary reports were filed May 11. Surprising, because Stenehjem has been a money machine since taking office a hundred or so years ago.

And here’s something a little but mysterious about his reports, too. In his 2017 Year-end report, Stenehjem reported he had $15,005 in the bank as his ending balance Dec. 31, 2017. But when he filed his preprimary report, he listed his starting balance, on Jan. 1, 2018, as just $4,770, a difference just overnight of more than $10,000. Must have been one heckuva New Year’s Eve Party.

I’ve been a little critical of Stenehjem’s fundraising in the past. In his 2010 and 2014 attorney general’s races, Wayne took more than $200,000 from a national Republican fundraising group, the Republican State Leadership Committee, including $150,000 in late 2013, just weeks before the Republican Attorney Generals Association split from the RSLC, possibly in part because the RSLC was taking corporate checks. When I asked Stenehjem after the 2014 election how it was possible for him to take RSLC money when the funds came from corporations, he replied that the RSLC segregated corporate contributions from personal contributions and distributed noncorporate funds to candidates who weren’t allowed to take corporate funds, like in North Dakota.  I said “Uh-huh.”

Well, anyway, Wayne didn’t need that much money to win in 2014, and had $152,000 left in the bank at the end of the year. Then he decided to run for Governor in 2016, and he transferred $145,000 of it to his governor’s campaign, and left his attorney general’s campaign account with about $10,000 at the end of 2016 (just in case . . . ). He added another five grand in 2017, getting him up to the $15,000 I mentioned earlier, at the end of last year. Which is now just $3,800.

Figure all that out, David Thompson. How did $10,000 disappear overnight? David is Wayne’s 2018 opponent. He needs to get his ass in gear. He reported having just $11,000 in the bank, $10,000 of it his own. Of course, like Dotzenrod, he wasn’t a candidate until March. I think he can raise a lot of money if he gets going.

Speaking of raising money, there’s a state legislator who’s outdistanced all but four of the statewide candidates — District 35 State Sen. Erin Oban, a Democrat, who appears to have almost $60,000 in the bank. She ran a big money race in 2014, knocking off Sen. Margaret Sitte and just kept right on raising funds.

She’ll need them — her opponent is a newcomer to the district, Gary Emineth, a purportedly wealthy businessman willing to spend some of his own money (he’s already written a $5,000 check to his campaign) to try to get Republican revenge on Oban, although there wasn’t a lot of Republican wailing and gnashing of teeth when Oban beat Sitte last time — she had become pretty much of an embarrassment to the party, and most Senators welcomed Erin with open arms. But political memories are short …

Next, I think, is House Majority leader Al Carlson with about $20,000 in the bank.

I didn’t check other legislators, but I did check the rest of the statewide candidates. The soon to be departed and forgotten Will Gardner had raised about $12,000, including $2,500 from John Hoeven just a couple of days before the news of his peeping broke. Not sure what he will do with that.

Jaeger didn’t even file a preprimary report, so he must not have raised any money this year, and figured since he was not a candidate May 11, he didn’t need to file. But he raised $12,000 last year and had that in the bank at the end of the year.

I think somebody should ask him. “Al, really, you didn’t raise a single penny for your campaign prior to the convention in 2018? Not a penny?”

Because if you did, if someone slipped you a check at the convention, and you forgot to file a report, you’re in big trouble. And you’re the elections guy, Al, it’s your office where these get filed. But as I write this May 25, two weeks after the filing deadline, there’s no report listed on the Secretary of State’s website. The only statewide candidate with no report. Hmmmm. No wonder you lost the endorsement, Al. Dang.

You can look at all the reports here.


I’m not a lawyer, although I generally know my way around North Dakota’s election laws after a lot of years of working in politics. After I wrote this blog, I went wandering through Section 16.1 of the North Dakota Century Code and found two things I did not know. They are explained below.

Note 1

I mentioned that if Brian Kroshus pulled some of the money that he and his partner, Kim Jondahl, donated to the campaign, it was legal to do that. Well, it was in 2016, when that would have occurred, but it looks like the 2017 Legislature changed the law:

“16.1-08.1-04.1. Personal use of contributions prohibited. A candidate may not use any contribution received by the candidate, the candidate’s candidate committee, or a multicandidate political committee to: 1. Give a personal benefit to the candidate or another person; 2. Make a loan to another person; 3. Knowingly pay more than the fair market value for goods or services purchased for the campaign; or 4. Pay a criminal fine or civil penalty.”

That’s the law today, as of last July 1, as I read it. The initiated measure I mentioned earlier just enshrines it in the state Constitution. If Brian would have done that in 2016, it was legal. Today it would not be. Got in under the deadline there, Brian.

Note 2

Regarding Al Jaeger’s not filing a campaign disclosure statement, even if he received some contributions in 2018. Section 16.1-08.1-02.3 says this:

“A candidate whose name is not on the ballot and who is not seeking election through write-in votes, the candidate’s candidate committee, and a political party that has not endorsed or nominated any candidate in the election is not required to file a statement under this subsection.”

That would seem to apply to Al, since he is not participating in the primary. It seems a little goofy that someone could seek a party endorsement, raise a million dollars, lose at the convention and not have to report that, but that seems to be the law, and Al seems to be taking advantage of it. I’m guessing, however, he may have to report any contributions he received in his subsequent reports, the pre-general election report and theyear-end report.

RON SCHALOW: Cramer Mimics Trump — Lies Like a Pro

It’s been quite an effing darn protracted loopy eon since “quick-draw” Kevin Cramer pushed all of  his chips onto the fuzzy orange rectangle. Except for the one he ate. It was an odd casino.

He’ll tell you that they were communion wafers. KC is religious, he’ll casually mention it, 3,000 times. But they were Cool Ranch Doritos, the most narcotic of the Ritos.

Cramer always puts ideology before godliness, though. Helping people in mortal need isn’t something he’s comfortable doing as a lawmaker. Food is for sissies and racoons. Teachings in the liberal Bible are for Sunday pretense.

Little did the congressman care, but Russian technicians were messing with the roulette wheel, and other Russians were populating the Trump campaign and visiting with the ultradeep state Iranians. Deducing that Trump is going to blow the whole thing up, the Iranians are pulling for the mad king.

Dividends took a little longer to development, since Vladimir Putin originally hired a couple of Russian roulette experts, and they showed up, eager to pull some triggers. It was a funny anecdote to share. For one of them. The other was probably due to be poisoned anyway.

Anyhow, the Russians got their act together and fooled enough gullibles to win the bet for Cramer. Thurston Howell III told lies to his pasty white base of Tiki tots and dominated the news with at least 17 stupid/offensive comments per day.

Draft dodger Donnie, the most objectionable polecat in the whole history of this country, became alt-right Kevin’s forever man-crush. It has been magical. Harold Hamm is swell, too

In this dystopian era, where grown men dive over hard plastic furnishings to retrieve a $5 baseball and ideologues run amok and run for Senate, Cramer has decided to run against Hillary, Obama, Schumer (Charles and Amy), Pelosi, LBJ, FDR, DOS and Obamacare. The mystical boogiemen ghosts of bullshit past. Heidi Heitkamp is his actual opponent.

It’s the only way to go, for a congressman, who has nothing to run on, except for his creepy adoration of a racist.

If Cramer stands next to anyone at the urinal, it’s a town hall. If he goes on air with one of the Trump bobos, like Rob Port, Chris Berg or Scott Hennen, it’s a town hall. Then, there is KNOX in Grand Forks, and a true believer with a radio station in Harvey, N.D., by the name of Rick Jensen, I think. Kevin keeps track of every encounter, It’s like bragging about the number of bullheads you fished out of the Mouse River.

Then, there’s the Heidi 💜 Hillary meme, which without irony, the Cramer campaign comes right out and says that because Heidi pulled for Hillary, the most qualified candidate by the width of Don and Rob’s hindquarters, and who spent most of her professional life as a lawyer, advocating for children, Heitkamp no longer has North Dakota values. But the New York sleazeball does. Fifty-seven percent of Americans don’t think he’s honest. Such malarkey.

Is Cramer saying that dishonesty is a North Dakota value? Or adultery? Seems like bad messaging.

Heidi and Hillary are moderates, not that grandma Clinton matters, since she isn’t in the game.

Donnie spent his adulthood mismanaging his inheritance, avoiding STDs, prostituting his last name and cheating as many people out of their money as possible. Trump University wasn’t the half of it.

Cramer is all too oily (Hamm residue) to not intentionally say false stupid things, following in Trump’s clown shoes.

Heidi did not, nor could not, repeal your temporary tax cut. That’s a lie, Kev. The tax scam is permanent for corporations, though.

And all of us were called deplorables. So sad. It’s not true, though. She said half. Evidently, Cramer feels like he and his base are in the basket.

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?” Clinton said. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”  — Time

Heidi also voted favor of late-term abortion, according to the holy one. Not true either.

There is no such thing.

“Though many media reports and other literature use the phrase ‘late-term abortion,’ it is not accurate and should not be used,” Hal Lawrence, M.D., executive vice president and CEO of ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists ), said in an email. “A full-term pregnancy is defined as a pregnancy with a gestational age between 39 weeks and 40 weeks, 6 days. ‘Late term’ refers to a pregnancy with a gestational age of 41 weeks to 41 weeks, 6 days. Abortions are not performed at ‘late term.’” — Cosmopolitan

How many procedures has Trump paid for? Who could guess? The Yellow Boy has paid his way out of every inconvenience.

Kevin Cramer is a liar and has adopted some cretinous values. More lies will be coming.

I’ll end with a too late suggestion for Will Gardner. Just walk in. Why stand out in the cold?

“I remember putting on my dress really quick because I was like, ‘Oh my god, there’s a man in here,’ ” said Mariah Billado, the former Miss Vermont Teen USA. Trump, she recalled, said something like, “Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before.”

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — ‘If If There’s Anything You Ever Did In Your Life You Don’t Want To See On The Front Page Of The Paper …’

From time to time over the years, I’ve received phone calls from aspiring politicians seeking advice on whether to run for some public office. Generally, it’s something like, “Hey, Jim, I’m thinking about running for dogcatcher. I’m wondering what you think about that. You got any advice for me?”

My first response is always the same. “Well, that’s great. It sounds exciting. Now then, if there’s anything you’ve ever done in your life you don’t want to read about on the front page of the paper, then think about that seriously, because it’s going to be there.”

I remember some years back a call from my young friend, Wade Williams. (Well, he wasn’t so young by then, but he was one of the youngest people ever elected to the North Dakota Legislature, at age 21, when I helped him with his campaign for the North Dakota House of Representatives in 1982.) He said, “Foogle (that was his name for me, like bugle, but pronounced like booger), I’m thinking about running for the North Dakota Public Service Commission. What do you think?”

I can tell this story now because Wade died young, like everything else he did getting married at age 18, running for the Legislature at 21, getting elected county commissioner at 31, dying at 54 after a lingering illness — and he’d get a kick out of being back in the story one more time.

I remember the conversation as if was yesterday — I was standing in front of my dining room window looking out on my back yard on a rainy Saturday morning.

“Well, Wade,” I said, “I’ll tell you what I tell everyone who calls. If there’s anything you’ve ever done in your life you don’t want to read about on the front page of the paper, then think about that seriously, because it’s going to be there.”

Wade shot back a reply: “LIKE WHAT?”

As in “What have you heard?” Aha. The voice of a guilty man.

“I don’t have any idea,” I said, chuckling to myself over his quick response, “but if you run, you aren’t going to have any secrets anymore because everything’s going to come out. So if there’s something in your past that’s going to embarrass you …”

“I got a DUI a couple of years ago.”

Wade had led a bit of a rough and tumble life after leaving the Legislature, so that didn’t surprise me, and I told him he was just going to have to live with it and decide if it was going to hurt his chances of winning.

In the end, he decided not to make the race but to stick with the gas station business he had bought a few years earlier.

I’m thinking about that as I read the stories about the young fellow from over in Mandan named Will Gardner, who is the endorsed Republican candidate for North Dakota Secretary of State, but now, after a couple of newspaper stories, says he isn’t.

Turns out Gardner, the endorsed Republican candidate for North Dakota Secretary of State, was convicted of being a Peeping Tom. He was caught window peeping at a women’s dorm at North Dakota State University. And the arresting officer said his pants were unzipped and his shirt pulled out. Hmmm.

The first newspaper story said “Gardner pleaded guilty … to disorderly conduct. The reason given by prosecutors was he ‘had peeped in numerous female dorm rooms.’ Gardner was initially charged with surreptitious intrusion, listed as a sexual offense in state codes, but reached a deal with prosecutors for a lesser charge.”

Surreptitious Intrusion is Section 12.1-20-12.2 of the North Dakota Century Code, a long, fairly colorful section:

Surreptitious intrusion.

“An individual, with the intent to arouse, appeal to, or gratify that individual’s lust, passions, or sexual desires, is guilty of a class A misdemeanor if that individual does any of the following:

a. With intent to intrude upon or interfere with the privacy of another, enters upon another’s property and surreptitiously gazes, stares, or peeps into a house or place of dwelling of another.

b. With intent to intrude upon or interfere with the privacy of another, enters upon another’s property and surreptitiously installs or uses any device for observing, photographing, recording, amplifying, or broadcasting sounds or events from a house or place of dwelling of another.

c. With intent to intrude upon or interfere with the privacy of the occupant, surreptitiously gazes, stares, or peeps into a tanning booth, a sleeping room in a hotel, or other place where a reasonable individual would have an expectation of privacy and has exposed or is likely to expose that individual’s intimate parts or has removed the clothing covering the immediate area of the intimate parts.”

There’s more, but that’s enough.

The plea to disorderly conduct doesn’t change what he did — he went peeping in women’s dorm rooms — and he was not some young college student on a Friday night drunk. He was a 29-year-old university employee, married with two kids, and he subsequently resigned from his NDSU job.

So, the North Dakota Republican Party endorsed a Peeping Tom for statewide office. And now he says he is withdrawing, leaving his party without a candidate. Yikes! defines Peeping Tom as, “a person who obtains sexual gratification by observing others surreptitiously, especially a man who looks through windows at night.”

The origin of the phrase Peeping Tom goes back to Lady Godiva’s famous ride, of course. And it’s all about politics. The Lady took a naked ride through the streets of Coventry to protest high taxes, and she was promised that no one would look. But Tom the Tailor looked, and was struck blind.

Peeping Tom

“When Godiva paraded, all bare,

“The townsfolk agreed not to stare.

“But the temptation was steep

“And young Tom took a peep

“But swore he just looked at her hair.” (author unknown)

Well, I don’t think Will Gardner’s gone blind. Yet. But Will, what were you thinking? Do you think WE’RE blind? Did you think no one would find out you’re a Peeping Tom because you just pleaded to disorderly conduct? Sorry Will, but somebody remembered. And tipped off a reporter.

Might’ve been old Al Jaeger, the current Secretary of State, the guy you beat at the Republican convention, who’s going to lose his job in January. Revenge is sweet.

Could’ve been a friend of Josh Boschee, the guy you were running against — past tense — although I’m pretty sure Josh himself would never stoop that low.

Or could’ve been the NDSU security guard who busted you and is pissed at you because his job is to protect those young women in NDSU dorms, and you got off on a lesser charge. And then you flaunted it by running for statewide office.

Or could’ve just been anyone with a good memory who never expected to see you on a statewide ballot, and is thinking “WTF?”

Will, you should’ve called some old guy in your party and asked for advice. Because you might have heard “If there’s anything you ever did in your life you don’t want to see on the front page of the paper …”

Footnote: The filing deadline for the Republican Party to file a new candidate for the June primary is April 9, long past. Without a candidate certified by the June primary, there can be no candidate for that party on the general election ballot in November. As far as I can tell, they could run someone as an independent candidate (Hmmm, what’s Drew Wrigley doing these days?), but not on the Republican ticket. Unless there is some provision for filling a vacancy I don’t know about.

Ironically, the man who will have to sort this all out is Al Jaeger. Stay tuned. THAT ought to be interesting.

RON SCHALOW: Kevin Cramer’s Criminal Choice 

There are many public servants and oil executives to blame for their silence but only Kevin Cramer, Mr. North Dakota way, thinks he deserves a seat in the United States Senate. So, he has to answer for his failures.

“It took “more than 1,000 firefighters from 80 different municipalities in Quebec and from six counties in the state of Maine” to help with evacuations and fire-fighting efforts in the small town (Lac-Megantic) of only a few thousand people, according to a Transportation Safety Board of Canada report.” — Bellingham Herald

That was in was in July 2013. Forty-seven people died when a Bakken oil train careened off the tracks, which led to a series of violent explosions. Five victims were vaporized.

“(Congressman Kevin) Cramer said after 10 years (2003 to 2012) on North Dakota’s Public Service Commission, he was confident the state’s oil was safe.” —The Minot Daily News Sept. 12, 2014

I could go into why his statement to The Minot Daily News was so sociopathically dangerous and irresponsible because there were many more Bakken oil train disasters to come, but his inaction before and after one particular incident explains where his heart lies.

2008. Just outside of Luther, Okla., and 30 miles from Oklahoma City, the first train hauling Bakken crude derails and explodes. Big red flag.

(Would this spur you to action?

“Among 14 cars that derailed in mixed freight train, eight cars of crude oil derailed. All spilled their contents, three from large gashes in their shells. The spilled oil caught fire and caused a massive explosion that was captured by a local TV news crew in a helicopter. About 35 people were evacuated but returned to their homes the same day. Crude oil originated in Fairview, Mont., in the Bakken region. Incident could have been an early sign of Bakken oil’s flammability.” — McClatchey, Jan. 27, 2014

Fairview straddles the North Dakota, Mont., border, but if any train originating in the Bakken explodes, it would raise concerns with any regulator with a conscience. No worries there.

But oil trains had stopped exploding on impact many decades ago, right?

Yes, but it was hurry hurry in the Bakken. The oil barons deliberately chose not to remove the explosive heptane, pentane, methane, propane, butane, ethane, isobutane and so on from the crude oil before filling the tanker cars. It was a choice. Oil companies decided, and regulators, like Kevin, looked the other way.

“The oil industry says there is a ready market for the extracted gases in Texas, but none in North Dakota. Therefore, say the producers, the explosive gases are best shipped to refineries while still dissolved in the crude.” — Railway Age

Kevin Cramer knew what was in the liquid coming out of the ground, and he knew the concoction they poured into the tanker cars, which were designed  to haul corn syrup. And since trains have been derailing since they were invented, he knew what was likely to happen.

Unless Kevin was really bad at his job. It’s possible. Neither option is flattering.

Luther, Okla.; Lac-Megantic, Quebec; Aliceville, Ala.; Casselton, N.D.; Lynchburg, Va.; and more big booms, until Mosier, Ore., on June 3, 2016.

The fire chief of Mosier is still whiter than usual and shaking, just at the thought of what the damage would have been when a single sheared-off track bolt caused the derailment, fire and explosion of a Bakken oil train that would have burnt down the entire town had the wind been blowing like normal through the Columbia River Gorge. Spilled oil gummed up their sewage system, but none reached the river, so yay for abnormal weather conditions.

Trains are still making runs to the West Coast, and a facility was finally built in North Dakota to refine the explosive gases. All of the gases, for all of the wells? I don’t know.

On Sept. 23, 2014, the North Dakota Industrial Commission holds a hearing:

“They (oil execs) testified that the oil was already safe, that train accidents were few and far between, and that regulations would cost the industry a lot of money.” — Prairie Public

“Already safe.”

Kevin Cramer, the proud owner of an oddly configured brain, said it is “discriminatory” to call Bakken crude by it’s given name, in a feeble attempt to obscure the source of the danger from the rest of the continent.

His words: “Well, whenever they refer to it as Bakken crude, you have to conclude they are discriminating because crude is not categorized, or characterized by its origin, by its location, by it’s geography.

“It should be characterized by its characteristics, it’s scientific and chemical make-up, so I think the rhetoric gets a little reckless. It tends to favor a particular point of view, a bias in advance, and that’s what I want to do away with on the 9th.

“I don’t know whether that (stabilization) is necessary or not. That’s part of what we will be exploring in our hearing in the science committee, because is it scientifically possible to strip it out? Obviously, of course, it is … but when you apply not just that, but the economics, and remember, you can strip those light elements off of the crude, but that has to be shipped as well, so in many respects, filling a train with nothing but the light elements, the more explosive, if you will, elements, and making that a bullet train; I’m not sure that is the right answer, so scientifically can you do it, sure, but you have to look at it holistically and consider all of the other elements; including economics, and is the benefit of doing something like that trump other things like speed of trains, and what kind of cars. There are other things to consider. That’s why I think a congressional hearing is the next best step, dealing specifically with the science of the crude.” — Kevin Cramer

“There are some benefits frankly to the stabilization process and that is stripping some of the liquids, some of the other gases off and using them in the marketplace. That is a far better solution that just stripping it for the sake of stripping it.”  Kevin Cramer

Free market ideology over public safety.

And this Cramer gem: “When you strip it, you now have highly explosive gases that have to get to market somehow. They have to go into a pipeline, they have to go on the train, making it even more explosive.”

“RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT is a crime consisting of acts that create a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person. The accused person isn’t required to intend the resulting or potential harm, but must have acted in a way that showed a disregard for the foreseeable consequences of the actions.”

Is it any surprise that Harold Hamm is the Cramer campaign finance chair?

Kevin will do or say anything to protect his oil buds, even at the expense of human lives.

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Another Kerfuffle

I’d like to begin this week by saying, “That darn Heidi Heitkamp.”

I’m referring, of course, to last week’s column in The Forum in which Mike McFeely ever-so-gently, in his curmudgeonly way, suggested that fellow columnist Rob Port might try writing about someone other than Heidi Heitkamp.

Like maybe Joel Heitkamp. I mean, I ain’t exactly Sherlock Holmes, but if I were going after dirt, I’d start digging in his backyard. Someone once asked Willie Sutton why he robbed banks. “Because that’s where the money is,” he said.

Joel has more skeletons in his closet than Jeffrey Dahmer. Far be it from me to cast aspersions, but I had lunch with him once, and he ordered fava beans and a nice Chianti, and for the record, that’s not even on the menu at Burger King.

It’s true that Rob Port has broken more than a few news stories over the years, but so far, all he has on Heidi is that she cheated at Parcheesi in fifth grade, has too many freckles and is bad at handshakes. Meanwhile, I know for a fact that Joel Heitkamp once robbed Willie Sutton. With an AR-16.

You could write for months just about prom night. There’s a version of the Steele Dossier on the bathroom walls at Hankinson (N.D.) High School. Joel’s senior year reads like “Fifty Shades of What the Hell!?”

But you know what they say — “You can lead a columnist to water, but he probably can’t swim.”

Personally, I refrain from talking about other columnists except for Tammy Swift, who has the cutest curly blonde hair ever. And while I’m at it, I’d like to thank Roxane Salonen for casting out my demons — I’m a Republican now — and I’m really sorry about the carpet. Roxane is my spirit animal, which, if you think about it, is really messed up.

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment, I believe one should “Speak no ill of a fellow columnist,” although these days in the White House I think it’s “Speak no ill of a fellow Communist.”

But I’m giving McFeely a pass on this one. This was more of an intervention. Not that I think Mike is the right guy for the job. If he showed up in my living room and gave me a hug, I think I’d start drinking more. They probably should have sent Roxane Salonen to Rob’s house. With a tarp.

This is getting worrisome. When Jake from State Farm called Rob and asked him what he was wearing, the answer was “Heidi Heitkamp’s pajamas.” That can’t be comfortable. Heidi is so folksy, she wears burlap, and according to the TV commercial I saw, Crocs.

If you dealt with as much chaffing as Rob Port, you’d lash out, too.

The problem with picking a fight with Rob is you’re going to need a thesaurus. (For you South Dakota State University grads, that’s not the dinosaur that ate the lawyer in Jurassic Park.) Rob has a propensity for using big words. Like propensity.

On this one, the smart money is on Port. McFeely knows just one big word. Kerfuffle. I don’t know what that is exactly, but it sounds like something you’d need a trained pig to sniff out in French forests. Or something you do after eating fava beans. Or a colorful nickname for an Austin Powers villain — Kerfuffle Carbuncle.

McFeely’s column went virus on the interwebs, but surprisingly, many liberals were critical of him. They weren’t exactly rushing to Port’s defense, but they felt that it was too little, too late. Apparently, McFeely should have attacked like a rabid dog (or Shawn Hannity) the instant Port showed his conservative leanings. Which was at birth. He only suckled from the right.

And the narrative is McFeely should have been even tougher on him.

Wow. Democrats have gotten so grumpy these days I can’t tell them from Republicans. Except in coffee shops and on the highway. At Starbucks, Democrats are the ones ordering soy caramel macchiatos, and Republicans are the ones making black people leave. Except for Kanye.

On the road, you can tell them apart because conservatives drive Cadillacs and liberals drive hybrids. Democrats will stop traffic to move a turtle. Republicans want to make it legal to drive over protesters or at least waterboard them.

One of my hobbies is cruising the Whole Foods parking lot with Make America Great Again bumper stickers. I put them on every Prius I see.

I slap PETA stickers on Suburbans parked at gun shops.

In my own small way, I feel I’m bringing us closer together.

© Tony Bender, 2018

RON SCHALOW: Poor Paranoid Lying Port

My buddy, Rob Port, used the coveted space for his Sunday column to set up a hypothetical Festivus pole, air his grievances and sob over his keyboard. My sources say he paced in the hall for a solid 45 seconds before getting winded and falling into a heap of self-pity. The feats of strength portion of Festivus was canceled, due to a lack of strength.

It is a Festivus miracle that anyone would waste money on this rube.

The headline and copy exemplified why he isn’t taken seriously, and many people consider him an embarrassment to the newspaper industry, worldwide, and Forum Communications in particular. I’m just generally embarrassed for people with no self-awareness or shame. Ferrets also have no self-awareness or shame. They are the Ports of the animal kingdom.

It’s as if he impersonated a real journalist and a real higher education expert, in a debate at Minot State University. Oh, right. Port did that and wore his finest checkered shirt and what appeared on video to be skinny jeans. The dull-witted one argued with people who have degrees up to their knees.

It’s doubtful that Port understood most of the words, but he was pleased with himself anyway. That’s the type of person we’re dealing with\ and partly explains his column of victimhood woe.

Let’s dissect this dead carp. Port’s words are in quotations.


What critic said shut up? He doesn’t know. Port’s Heidi obsession cannot be summed up as sound. It’s not. If you’re into the 109 degrees of separation game, laced with venom, Rob’s your dude.

“MINOT, N.D. — Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and her network of operatives and supporters are out to make me Public Enemy No. 1.”

The youngster never names any of these operatives involved in this conspiracy. He usually calls these imaginary people “surrogates.” The word surrogates, appears in 7,436 Heidi hit pieces.

And he isn’t No. 1. He wishes. Port’s just a lackey.

“The problem is that the senator’s approval numbers are tanking ahead of what promises to be the most vigorously contested election of her life.”

 The Portweasel just made that up. His mediocrity is the problem.

“The solution, it seems, is to paint yours truly as a big, bad bully who just won’t leave poor Heitkamp alone.”

The Portweasel just made that up.

“Remember, this is a U.S. senator we’re talking about. As one of just 100 members of that legislative chamber, she is one of the most powerful political figures in the country. She has a war chest stuffed with millions in donations which funds, among other things, a campaign staff eager to mau-mau anyone critical of their candidate.”

Mau-mau? OK. Port is eager to mau-mau anyone critical of Kevin Cramer. Kevin can say nothing too stupid to get the mau-mau thing from his third favorite media sycophant.

“Lately, though, Heitkamp has taken the posture of a victim in the face of criticism from me. Her staffers, who never bother to respond to my requests for comment or interviews, routinely contact my bosses encouraging them to shut me up. The state’s opinion pages frequently feature letters to the editor from Democratic operatives whinging on about a supposed “obsession” with the senator.”

Heitkamp has never mentioned the blogger’s name, to my memory, but Rob can fantasize about keeping her up at night. Heidi doesn’t consider Port at all. He’s a hack who thinks he deserves some respect because JoeMN, Orville and a small cast of turkey vultures,who circle the polluted pond on his blog, are waiting to attack anyone who might leave a factual comment. These mooks hang on his every word, or at least try to sound out the headline.

“Even my colleague, Mike McFeely, is doing his part for Heitkamp under the guise of promoting professional standards. In a recent column, he was floating the scurrilous idea that I might be paid off by Republicans. He claims that a political commentator like me writing a lot about a candidate in what promises to be the biggest political brawl in state history is somehow unbecoming of someone in our profession.”

McFeely is not Jr.’s colleague (that implies some level of equality), and he wasn’t doing anything on behalf of Heitkamp. And he didn’t float anything. As McFeely stated, readers have wondered about his obviously adhesive relationship with Kevin Cramer. How many lies is that, so far?

“There’s a simple explanation for why all of this is happening: My criticism of Heitkamp is sound.”

 No it isn’t. Sorry, you little hombre.

“It’s resonating with the public.”

It’s not.

 “It’s become inconvenient to Heitkamp’s efforts to get herself re-elected.”
Wrong again. Voldeport (copyrighted by Kris Wallman), thinks a lot of himself.

“Thus, it must be removed. Or diminished.”

Thus, the thin-skinned one doesn’t understand the issue. Drama queen.

“Hilariously, there seems to be little concern from my critics about the senator’s brother operating a Fargo-based radio station as a de facto campaign headquarters. When Joel Heitkamp was riding herd on Heitkamp’s opponent in 2012 — former Republican Congressman Rick Berg — there were no complaints from our friends on the left.”

Port complained, and since I listened to KFGO before that election (did Robbie?), and to call the radio station as a de facto campaign headquarters, is ridiculous. Another lie. I’m sure it sounded true during a fever dream brought on by mayonnaise malaise.

“The hypocrisy is so thick you could cut it with a knife.”

I love cliches.

“You’ll notice that the bulk of the criticism of my coverage of North Dakota’s U.S. Senate race is not focused on what I’m writing. There are few rebuttals offered for the points I’m making. Rather, we are being treated to tantrums from people who are upset that I’m writing anything at all.”

Also, not true. Weasel boy is throwing the tantrum in this comedy.

“I dislike dedicating a column like this to some food fight with a bunch of politicos and campaign operatives, but I felt I owed you, the audience, a rebuttal to the smear campaign against me.”

Gosh, thanks, I did feel owed. Port knows how to smear, but not enough people care about him to call anything a campaign.

“I choose topics because they matter. My critics want me to shut up because they know those topics matter.”

Another miss. Have another bottle of cough syrup.

“One truth I’ve learned in 15 years of writing about politics is that you usually get the most flak when you’re over the target.”

Writing is a strong word.

RON SCHALOW: Port And Cramer — Making Collusion Fun Again

I bought a gizmo that is supposed to drive away vermin by emitting a super high-pitched sound. I wanted a herd of hard-partying ants on a sugar high to take a hike. Or take a long walk off a short pier, like my uncles used to tell me on a regular basis.

It’s undignified to live with insects that strut around like they own the place. So far, all the annoying squeal (I imagine) has kept away are bears. White through black. Haven’t seen a one of them. The ants laugh and line dance on the gadget. “Boot Scootin Boogie” still haunts me, from a former life.

Speaking of bears, I imagine that some of the college-educated professional news people at the Forum and WDAY have also tried audio waves to shoo away the pesky amatuer Rob Port. The raccoon infestation has moved over to Broadway, but the blogger is evidently immune to good vibrations, toxic sprays and kites that look like dragons. Hang in there, people.

Aside from his calling them “colleagues,” which insults me and I don’t even work there, Port also has a neurological problem level of shrill repetition, with his topics.






She’s a vicious red-haired she-devil, no doubt.

Obviously, Port writes his own headlines because no standard-issue person could concoct such clunky word strings.

One of his favorite heavily repeated themes is that Heitkamp is a big meany, and she will surely pick on the angelic Congressman Kevin Cramer.

Recently, Port posted the following:


“I’ve long predicted that the 2018 U.S. Senate election will be one of the ugliest North Dakota has ever seen.” (Now, that’s some fine punditing.)

“Part of the foundation for that prediction lays in the way the incumbent, Sen. Heitkamp, campaigned in 2012. She ran a VICIOUS campaign that year, BRUTALIZING her opponent Rick Berg with her surrogates painting the man as a “slum lord” and worse.” (Robbie made the wrong prediction and has been pouting about it ever since. Berg claimed that Heitkamp wanted to disarm our military, so Port can hang his hat on that gem.)


“But if she can use her millions in out-of-state contributions to turn the race into referendum on what an awful person Congressman Kevin Cramer is, maybe she can win.” (Well, he is awful.)


“She’s a gifted politician, she has millions from out of state donors in the bank already, and she’s proven to have FEW SCRUPLES when it comes to SAVAGING her political opponents.”

So, because the smiling, smarmy, smirking Cramer would never resort to running a negative campaign, little Port has taken the initiative to pick up the slack with the scruple-free, vicious and savaging of Kevin’s opponent, Heidi Heitkamp. Chris Berg and Scott Hennen help.

And Cramer has a standing spot on Port’s radio show. I wouldn’t listen if threatened with a push into a pit crawling with saw-scaled vipers. But it’s hard to stifle the commercials, and I can confirm that Robbie giggles like a little girl when he thinks he’s said something funny.

Of course, junior is also a flack for big oil, the North Dakota GOP, pipeline companies and downtrodden wealthy corporations.

He prefers provocative statements for headlines that aren’t proven in the copy or don’t match the content of the post. But it doesn’t matter.

While being indoctrinated in government high school, he might have been told that 60 percent to 80 percent of readers peruse only the deceptive headline, and Forum Communications allows him three or four headlines per day, which enter the bloodstream of the organization.

Many take Port’s headlines as gospel. It’s an insidious way to push an agenda. He can come up with any dribble that leaks out of his ears without any pushback.

Port also misrepresents the facts on a regular basis. Opinion is one thing, math is another. As is science. Truth supersedes ideology. Port is a liar. The match with Cramer makes sense.

But the deceit never gets corrected. He just moves to the next sham Heitkamp scandal. Try digging through her garbage, you little brown-nose bear.

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Current Events Quiz

AIR FORCE ONE ANNOUNCEMENT — “Ladies and gentlemen, we are experiencing some … uh … turbulence. As we continue our steep descent into anarchy, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position and that your seat belt is securely fastened. Before we crash, we’d like you all to fill out this brief questionnaire, the results of which will be shared with Cambridge Analytica.

1. Song President Trump often sings in the shower:
A. Hotline Bling.
B. My Ding-a-Ling.
C. 50 Ways to Fire Your Mueller.
D. It’s the End of the World (And I Feel Fine)

2. A better choice for national security adviser than John Bolton:
A. John Belushi.
B. Michael Bolton.
C. Edwin Starr.
D. Dr. Evil.

3. Things John Bolton wants to blow up:
A. North Korea.
B. East Korea.
C. West Korea.
D. North by Northwest Korea.

4. Things Donald Trump wants to blow up:
A. The soybean trade with China.
B. Apparently the stock market.
C. An inflatable love doll named Chesty.
D. The prenup.

5. Where is Mike Pence these days?
A. Undisclosed location in The Swamp.
B. Not dining alone with Stormy Daniels, that’s for sure.
C. The bullpen.
D. Cowering in a dark closet repeatedly mumbling to himself, “Out, damned spot …”

6. Solution to a vexing political problem:
A. Tweet firing.
B. Build a wall.
C. Woodchipper.
D. Russian Agents and poison.

7. Things to expect in a brawl between Trump and Joe Biden:
A. A folding chair will be involved.
B. Kicking and a’ gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer.
C. Each touches the other inappropriately.
D. A sleeper, which everyone knows is really an illegal choke hold.

8. Why so many women voted against Hillary:
A. Pressure from their Republican husbands.
B. Believed they were voting against Sir Edmund Hillary.
C. Thought Trump was the Lesser of Two Weasels.
D. Tom Campbell bought their votes.

9. Why did hundreds of thousands of kids march in the streets on Saturday?
A. Late for Trump’s inauguration.
B. I dunno, but it’s a slippery slope.
C. Fox News: If we didn’t report it, it didn’t happen.
D. Practicing for the invasion of Iran

10. What President Trump offered Putin last week:
A. Congratulations.
B. Aid and comfort.
C. Jared Kushner’s security clearance.
D. What’s behind Curtain No. 3.

Bonus: The president is banning them from military service:
A. Transgenders.
B. Transformers.
C. Transients.
D. The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Answers: 1. C; 2. C; 3. D; 4. C; 5. C; 6. D; 7. C; 8. C; 9. B; 10. B; Bonus: D.

Grading: 11-9: Fine, smarty-pants, but how’s your March Madness bracket looking? 6-8 correct: It’s like you’re psychic. Or a member of the Deep State or something. 3-5 correct: Well, you did better than Kushner. 0-2 correct: Yes, Mr. President, you are a genius. The most bigly smart genius in the world.

© Tony Bender, 2018

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — The Race For An Open Seat In Congress

North Dakota’s Democrats will hold their state convention in Grand Forks later this week, and the highlight, if there’s to be one, will be choosing a candidate to run for North Dakota’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. So I’ve been thinking a bit about politics and conventions, especially past ones, similar to what we might see this week.

I’m remembering the 1992 North Dakota Democratic-NPL State Convention, which was held at the Bismarck Civic Center. I was helping out with one of the campaigns, so I was at the Civic Center the day before the convention started when word spread like wildfire across the convention floor: Sen. Kent Conrad announced he was not seeking re-election to a second term.

Kent had been elected to the Senate six years earlier in a stunning upset over Mark Andrews. During that campaign, he pledged that he would not stand for re-election if the federal budget deficit had not fallen substantially by the end of his term (a promise that made a lot of us cringe). By 1992, it became obvious that this would not be the case, and although polls showed that the electorate would have welcomed his reneging on that pledge, Conrad considered his promise binding, and said he would not run for re-election.

Kent’s announcement set in motion a chain of events I want to talk about today. But first, let’s go back a little further.

In 1980, Republicans creamed the Democrats. It was the year of the Reagan landslide, and North Dakota was not unlike most states around the country that generally tilt a little Republican. Republicans made big gains in state capitols and legislative chambers. That reduced the ranks of Democrats in both the North Dakota House and Senate — Republicans led 73-27 in the House and 40-10 in the Senate. But there were a couple of surprise winners in the House races — Democrats Earl Pomeroy of Valley City and Bill Heigaard of Langdon.

By the end of the 1983 legislative session (during which I worked for the Democratic-NPL House and Senate caucuses), Minority Leader Dick Backes told me “You watch that Heigaard and Pomeroy — they’re going to be stars.” Backes was right.

In the 1982 election, Heigaard moved over to the Senate, where he eventually became Senate majority leader for four sessions and got his party’s nomination for governor in 1992, only to lose in the primary to Nick Spaeth.

Pomeroy was re-elected in 1982, but in 1984, he ran successfully for North Dakota insurance commissioner, and he was re-elected in 1988.

Which brings us back to 1992. Earlier that year, Pomeroy announced that he was not going to seek re-election. He and his wife were going to join the Peace Corps. They’d be leaving North Dakota at the end of his term, in January 1993. His brother, Glenn, had announced he would seek the job and was about to be endorsed at the state convention.

When the news of Kent’s decision hit the convention floor we all said, “Well, then Byron has to run for the Senate.” Yep.

Byron Dorgan, Kent’s protégé, had been in the U.S. House of Representatives since his election in 1980. He had declined to challenge Andrews in 1986, so Kent ran and was elected. So on that April 1992 morning, Byron wasted no time announcing he would seek Kent’s seat. That left an open seat for the state’s lone congressman’s job.

All eyes turned to Fargo’s John Schneider. Schneider was the Democrats’ floor leader in the North Dakota House of Representatives, widely recognized for his speaking and leadership skills, and was the next star of the Democratic-NPL Party. Earl Pomeroy had announced he was quitting politics, and Heigaard was running for governor, so Schneider was the obvious choice to fill Dorgan’s shoes. He quickly let it be known he was interested in the party’s endorsement for Congress.

But the tug of a U.S. Congress seat was too powerful for Pomeroy to resist. After a long conversation with his wife, Laurie, he sought out Schneider and the two of them talked. And talked. And talked. And then John Schneider blinked. It was an incredibly magnanimous gesture. John likely conceded (not many are privy to those conversations) that Earl, having already won two statewide elections, was probably more electable. John stepped aside.

Earl was elected by a wide margin, and remained in Congress for 18 years, until his defeat by Rick Berg in 2010. John Schneider’s prize was the job of U.S. Attorney for North Dakota in the Clinton years. Sadly, he died young, of a brain tumor in 2001.

All of which brings us to 2018, and the point of all this history I’ve been boring you with. Once again there is an open seat in Congress up for grabs this fall, with Congressman Kevin Cramer’s decision to take on Heidi Heitkamp for a Senate seat.

Late last summer, a young fellow from Fargo named Ben Hanson decided to run for North Dakota’s lone seat in Congress. He’s done an admirable job of raising funds and meeting people, and until last week was the likely nominee of the Democratic-NPL Party. No more. Former State Senator Mac Schneider’s entry into the race last week makes it a likely tossup for the nomination at next week’s state convention. A third candidate, state Sen. John Grabinger, is a nonstarter with those two in the race.

Now, there will be a good number of people, but probably not a majority, at the State Democratic-NPL convention this week, who remember the 1992 convention and John Schneider’s concession to Earl Pomeroy. With those folks, there’ll likely be some sympathy for his nephew, Mac.

And the Schneider family has a long reach. Besides his Uncle John’s prominence, his mother, Mary, is a state representative from Fargo. His dad, Mark, is a former state Democratic-NPL Party chairman. His other uncle, Steve, worked for Pomeroy in the Capitol when Earl was insurance commissioner, and he and his wife, Donna, are longtime party activists. His aunt, Lois, John’s widow, was a longtime employee in Sen. Kent Conrad’s office. Her son, Jasper, Mac’s cousin, is a former state legislator, once a candidate for state tax commissioner, and an Obama administration appointee as North Dakota’s Rural Development director. And Mac’s sister, Libby, last I heard, was managing Heidi Heitkamp’s Senate campaign — unless Heidi turns her loose to run her brother’s campaign if he’s nominated. There won’t be many Democrats at this week’s convention who don’t like the Schneider family and don’t know at least a couple of them.

Mac’s entry into the race at such a late stage, a little more than a week before the party’s nominating convention, is a bit puzzling. Ben Hanson is a solid candidate who’s done everything right so far. He’s built a strong campaign organization, raised a bunch of money — more than $100,000, I think, including, I’d guess (I haven’t seen Ben’s FEC report), a contribution from Mac Schneider, who has said consistently he would not run for anything this year — and has traveled the state tirelessly, all things a Democrat must do in North Dakota to have a chance.

Ben’s talked to pretty much every delegate to next week’s convention and has told me he had pretty much universal support going into the convention. Of course, that was before Schneider and Grabinger got in the race. The test for Hanson now is to hold onto a majority of those delegates in a contested race. Knowing how hard he has campaigned to date, I suspect he’s still on the phone shoring up his support.

So can Schneider’s late entry into the race make any sense? Who, or what, caused him to change his mind? We may find out the answer next week, if Earl Pomeroy gives Mac’s nominating speech. That would make some sense. Earl doesn’t owe the Schneider family anything, but he’s a gracious man, and this would be a good way to thank John Schneider’s widow, Lois, and his brothers (and law partners), Mark and Steve, and the kids and nephews, all of whose lives would have been considerably different back in the 1990s, and beyond, without John’s magnanimity at that 1992 state convention.

In any case, both Hanson and Schneider are good ballot names, and the two who bear them are good candidates. For either, though, it’s a tough race, because they have a near-fatal flaw — they’re Democrats in North Dakota.

And Kelly Armstrong, their likely opponent unless something really weird happens at the subsequent Republican state convention, comes from one of the richest families in western North Dakota. Armstrong’s father, Mike, is an uber-successful oilman, and I’m guessing he’s got at least one more zero in his net worth than the also-rich banker from Grafton, N.D., Tom Campbell, who’ll be duking it out with Armstrong at their convention.

So, attention: Ben Hanson and Mac Schneider: Good luck if you get the nomination. This is going to be an expensive campaign. I’d say you’re going to have to raise a million dollars, at minimum, between now and Election Day, to have a chance because Kelly Armstrong is going to have at least that much, maybe more.  Your campaign starts Sunday. There are 233 days between then and Election Day. That means you have to raise at least $4,000 a day, every day, to compete. Starting Sunday. If you don’t raise any money Sunday, you have to raise $8,000 on Monday. And if you don’t raise $8,000 on Monday … well, you get the drift. So don’t let those folks down who voted for you at the convention. Get busy.

The only real thing operating in Hanson and Schneider’s favor is that it’s an open seat, with no incumbent, and that makes it a bit of a wild card in a year when Democrats nationwide are expected to do well in November. Open seats offer at least a chance to anyone running.

History lesson: Open congressional seats

A note about open congressional seats: They don’t happen very often. Here’s a brief history of North Dakota’s congressional representation in what we call North Dakota’s modern political era, since 1960.

North Dakota had two seats in Congress until 1972. We elected two people to Congress at large. In 1960, the two seats were held by Quentin Burdick, a Democrat, and Don Short, a Republican. But our U.S. Senator, William Langer, had died in office and a special election was held in June of that year to replace him. Burdick won, and resigned his seat in the House. Hjalmer Nygaard, a Republican, was elected to replace him in the general election that November.

But before the 1962 election came along, Congress changed things and divided the state into two congressional districts, East and West. In 1962, Short and Nygard were re-elected, Short from the West and Nygaard from the East.

Then Nygaard died in office, and Mark Andrews was elected to replace him from the East. And in 1964, Short was defeated by Democrat Rolland Redlin. Redlin served one term and was defeated by Tom Kleppe in 1966. Kleppe was re-elected in 1968 and then was appointed to serve as Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Interior and did not seek re-election in 1970, the year Art Link won the seat (an open seat) by beating Robert McCarney.

But by the time the1972 election came around,, everything changed. In the congressional reapportionment year of 1971, North Dakota lost one of its two congressional seats, which would have meant that incumbents Link and Andrews would have had to compete in 1972 for the same seat. Link decided instead to run for governor, and won.

So Andrews, having first been elected to Congress in 1962, held the office until 1980, when he moved over to the Senate, and Dorgan was elected to the open seat. Dorgan held it until 1992, when he ran for Senate, and Pomeroy won the open seat. Pomeroy held it until 2010, when he was defeated by Berg, but Berg abandoned it in 2012 to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Dorgan’s retirement. And Cramer was elected to fill the open seat.

So you can see that seats in Congress from North Dakota don’t come open very often. Our congressmen tend to stay in office until they die or are defeated. Since 1970, almost 50 years now, only in 1980, 1992, and 2012 have there been races for an open seat in Congress. Until this year, when Cramer decided to abandon his seat in Congress to run against Heidi Heitkamp for Senate, creating an open seat in Congress.

And that’s why we have so many candidates running for Congress this year.