JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Election Tidbits

This year, as in most election years, I found a stack of notes to myself on my desk about things I thought I might write a blog about, but never got around to it because pheasant season opened, or the fish started biting, or the ducks were migrating, or Lillian’s “Things to Do In The Fall” list got a bit too long. Some of them are worth sharing, though at least in an abbreviated form.


One of the more surprising things I’ve found in this election campaign is how easy it was for North Dakota Republicans to forget the vitriol of the primary election for governor. At least on the part of Doug Burgum. There are many examples, but let me pick out just one to illustrate.

Back before the primary, Mandan’s District 34 Republicans were merciless to Burgum on their Facebook page (which I’ve been told is managed by Rep. Todd Porter). Some quotes from the page:

  • “Slimy” Doug has hit a new low trying to buy the office of governor.
  • Wolf in conservative clothes!! Burgum is no conservative!!
  • More than willing to pay or say anything!! (Commenting on a shared Rob Port blog post)
  • Burgum’s biggest problem here isn’t his position on abortion but that he can’t seem to shoot straight about it.

The Facebook postings for late May and early June go on and on, ripping Burgum for one thing or another. But now, at the end of the general election campaign, District 34 Republicans and Burgum are slobbering all over each other with praise. Mandan voters got a flier with Burgum’s picture on it and a wonderful endorsement on it from Burgum, urging them to return Porter, Toman and Cook to the Legislature.

jim1And it goes both ways. Now the Facebook page is loaded with Burgum videos, urging voters to elect him governor. You can take a look at the District 34 Republicans’ Facebook page here. Apparently Burgum washed off the slime between June and October. And he’s a forgiving soul. More forgiving than I’d be, I think, if someone publicly called me slimy. (I’ve been called a lot of things by political opponents, but never slimy.)


The race for the District 34 House of Representatives has been one of the more interesting races this year, and if there’s going to be an upset in the state’s legislative races, it could happen here because of the aggressive campaign being run by Democrat Jessica Perkins Petrick. (Perkins is her maiden name. Her cousin, now-famous singer Kat Perkins, held a meet-and-greet fundraiser for Jessica earlier this fall.) Petrick’s target is first term Republican House member Nathan Toman, a tea-partier who replaced RaeAnn Kelsch four years ago, although she’s also taken after longtime GOP House member Todd Porter at the end of the campaign.

Porter presented an easy target this time, although he’s not likely to be thrown out of office. It seems that he’s gotten mixed up in a kind of sleazy real estate deal that, on the surface, at least would be a good justification for an ethics investigation if we had ethics laws for legislators in North Dakota — which we don’t.

As a legislator, Porter voted for an appropriation for the UND School of Medicine to build a Family Practice Center here in Bismarck. Five and a half million dollars worth. UND built the two-story building on land it leased from Sanford, along Seventh Street in the medical district in Bismarck. But then a third and fourth floor got added to the building, and those floors are not owned by UND. They are owned by a private partnership whose members include Jerry Splonkowsi, who owns Northwest Contracting, the company that built the building, as well as Niles Huschka, president of KLJ engineering; Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council; and State Representative Todd Porter.

jim2And from what I understand, some of the space on the floors is rented back to the state, with the money for rent coming from bills that Porter either sponsored or voted for. That’s conflict enough, but Porter is also chairman of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the most important committee to his business partner, Ron Ness, the state’s top oil and gas lobbyist. People who attend the House Energy Committee’s meetings tell me there’s usually a hugfest between Ness and Porter whenever Ness walks into the committee room.

Nobody’s talking about the sleazy actions by Porter, except Petrick took him to task for it in a postcard mailed throughout her district at the end of the campaign. My guess is that Democrats might be calling for an ethics investigation in the next session of the Legislature. And I hope Petrick is there to help it along.


A North Dakota attorney called to my attention the other day an end-of-the-campaign fundraising e-mail sent out by a campaign committee member of North Dakota Supreme Court candidate Robert Bolinske of Bismarck. The header said “To: All ND Attorneys, From: the Bolinske Campaign Committee” and included the phrase, “Help, anonymously in the form of cash if you desire, but please help in whatever form you can.”

The campaign person sending out the e-mail was obviously a political novice, and Bolinske would not likely have approved it. But it was stupid. In North Dakota, you can send a check or cash for $200 or less and it doesn’t have to be reported. But if you send more than $200, no matter cash or check, it has to be reported. That’s the law, and no one running for judge would violate that law.

Worse, it went to a couple of hundred lawyers, all of whom know the law, and all of whom know that if they wanted to send 200 $1 bills, no one would know about it. I’m thinking it didn’t matter, and the e-mail didn’t raise much money, partly because of that stupid mistake, and partly because Bolinske’s campaign really isn’t going anywhere anyway. I kind of like Bob (confession — I kind of like all ornery old defense lawyers), and I’m glad  he ran, to give us a choice in that race to replace Dale Sandstrom on the court, but he’s not going to be on the Supreme Court. The e-mail just kinds of points out how enthusiastic campaign volunteers can get caught up in trying to help the man they like and let that enthusiasm run a bit amok.


One more Burgum note: To show how far Burgum has come in making amends with the “Good Old Boys Club” in Bismarck, he sent an e-mail to his mailing list (I’m on it) last week that said:

“The ND GOP is looking for dedicated individuals to help us Get Out the Vote (GOTV) for our Republican candidates. This is a great opportunity to help elect Republican Gubernatorial Nominee Doug Burgum, Senator John Hoeven, Congressman Kevin Cramer, and your local legislative candidates!”

“Training and all necessary materials will be provided, and compensation will be offered to individuals who complete a minimum of one shift. Can we rely on you to help our candidates achieve victory next week?”

“Compensation will be offered.” That’s something new. Generally, phone banking in North Dakota is the job of volunteers. But this year, it looks like the Republican Party is paying phone callers. Thing is, there’s a lot of money available — neither Burgum, Rep.  Kevin Cramer nor Sen. John Hoeven has stiff opposition this year, and they have plenty of money they’re not spending on TV commercials, so they can afford to pay phone callers. One more reason I think the Democrats are really going to get wiped out Tuesday night. (More about money in a minute — I’m taking these notes in the order they were stacked up.)


Here’s a good question: Can Democratic-NPL Governor candidate Marvin Nelson get 35 percent of the vote in the governor’s race against Burgum? If so, he’d beat every Democratic-NPL candidate for governor since 1992 except Heidi Heitkamp. Heitkamp got 45 percent in her race against Hoeven in 2000. Lee Kaldor got 33 percent against Ed Schafer in 1996, Joe Satrom got 27 percent against Hoeven in 2004, Tim Mathern got 24 percent against Hoeven in 2008, and Ryan Taylor got 34 percent against Dalrymple in 2012. I think Nelson could be right around 35 per cent. Raising the bar, but not too much.


The Republican Party had plenty of money to toss around in the last week of the campaign, when it appears Doug Burgum dumped what was left in his campaign account into the party’s coffers. (Burgum raised more than $1.7 million for his race for governor this year, as opposed to just over $100,000 for Nelson — probably the most lopsided race I’ve ever seen.) According to a supplemental campaign finance disclosure report filed by the Republican Party on Nov. 3, Burgum wrote a check for $118,059 to the party on Oct. 28. The only problem with that is that according to state law (NDCC 16.1-08.1-04), if a political party receives a contribution of more than $500 in the last month of the campaign, the Party must “file the statement in the appropriate office (Secretary of State) within 48 hours of the receipt of the contribution.” Looks like the Republican Party’s report was about 4 days late.

According to NDCC Chapter 16.1-08.1-06.1, “If a statement or report required to be filed according to this chapter is not filed within the prescribed time, the filing officer to whom the report was to be filed is authorized to charge and collect a late fee as follows: a. Within six days after the prescribed time, twenty-five dollars …”

Hmmm, I wonder if Secretary of State Al Jaeger will send a bill for 25 bucks to the State Republican Party. I think I’ll call and check after the election.


Burgum, by the way, made Hoeven (who, from what I can tell, is darned near as rich as Burgum) look like a piker in this election cycle. Statements filed by the party show Hoeven gave just a little more $24,000 to the party this year.

The party had a pretty good last few days, even without Burgum’s check. On Nov. 3, it got $20,000 from Las Vegas Casino tycoon Steve Wynn and his wife, Andrea. The Wynns, one of Vegas’ richest couples, own the Golden Nugget, the Mirage, Treasure Island and the Bellagio. I’m not sure what their connection to the North Dakota Republican Party, or its candidates, is. The Wynn check brought the Republican Party’s reportable contributions for the year to $694,000. The North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party didn’t do so badly either, reporting $458,000 in contributions for the campaign year.


There’s a cool new North Dakota political blog/website you should check out and bookmark, called Mean Read. Its publisher, former Forum reporter Adrian Glass-Moore, says “Mean Read publishes North Dakota news and scoops, plus other things, with some pizzazz. Contact: tips@meanread.com.” It’s fun to read, but contains some really strong language, so keep your kids away from it (Yeah, right, like they don’t talk like we do.) In the last week or so, Adrian:

  • Reports on PSC candidate Julie Fedorchak’s use of the state Capitol and state seal in her campaign ads, a possible violation of the law.
  • Calls Kevin Cramer “Trump’s manservant”
  • Quotes a Republican anti-gay marriage legislative candidate from West Fargo who put a statement on his Facebook page that says in “churches in Minnesota have recognized sodomite clergy for some time, so now the sodomites can be married by the sodomites.”
  • Publishes an “up close and personal” photo of governor candidate Doug Burgum and Forum Publisher Bill Marcil Jr. and their wives, and asks if anyone is surprised by the Forum’s endorsement of Burgum.


Fargo State Senator George B. Sinner has dragged out one of his dad’s old campaign commercials and is using it in his 2016 state Senate campaign. In 1984, his dad, George A. Sinner (who’s alive and well and living in Fargo, by the way) made a TV spot when he was running against Al Olson for governor. It featured a farmer shoveling manure out of his barn, and saying that “some people say what’s going on in the campaign is just politics, but around here we call it something else” as he pitches some manure at the camera. I was working for the Democratic-NPL Party at the time, and I remember when we first saw it, we all let out a hoot, and then pondered over whether it was a bit too harsh. It was. I think it maybe ran once or twice, if at all, then went in the can. We called it The Bullshit Ad for years afterward.

Well, George B. is in a pretty mean re-election race this year, and he’s had his campaign crew do some editing on it, and I found it on his Facebook page. I don’t know if it’s on TV, but it’s fun to watch, and might be able to see it by clicking here.


And speaking of Al Olson, he’s at least a semiregular reader of my blog, and he found his name in it last week, when I wrote about Republicans raiding trust funds now and back in the 1981 North Dakota Legislature. I had also written about the Wayne Sanstead-Dale Sandstrom mix-up, and somewhere in that blog I mentioned that I have some Republican friends who have both a heart and a brain. That prompted Al to put a comment at the end of my blog: “Loved the Sanstead/Sandstrom story, but the Strinden/Olson less so. Excellent commentary but it’s unfair to leave me wondering if my Republican brain and heart meet Prairie Blog standards … AIO .” I replied “Yep. No problem.” I’m glad Al is still around and has his sense of humor.


Finally, here’s my only comment of the year on the presidential race. Hillary Clinton has had to put up with more ugly stuff in  this campaign, at least partly because she’s a woman, than any presidential candidate ever. So I say, Hillary, if you have to lie, and cheat and steal, whatever it takes, to beat that jackass, it’s OK with me. You go, girl.

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