JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — George Santos, Meet Tammy Miller

In the Bismarck Tribune about North Dakota Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller’s announcement that she was running for governor this past week. Tribune reporter Jacob Fulton wrote this:

Miller touted her childhood “cleaning toilets and stocking shelves” at the family lumber and hardware business in Brocket; she also said she “defended the store from robbers with her shotgun.”

Now I had never seen a political announcement claiming toilet-cleaning as one of their qualifications for running for political office, but I was a bit more intrigued about the shotgun part.

Then, a day or two later, I got an e-mail to me from Tammy herself. It’s pretty obvious Gov. Doug Burgum has not only endorsed her but has shared his fundraising and e-mail list with her — I was on it because I gave him a dollar to get a $20 gift card when he was running for president this past year, and I got dozens and dozens of e-mails from him. I’m getting regular e-mails from Tammy now, and they just keep getting more interesting. Here’s what Tammy’s e-mail said:

“I spent my teenage days working in my family’s store, Miller’s Shopping Center on the Prairie. It wasn’t glamorous work, either. Picture stocking shelves and scrubbing toilets! On multiple occasions, I used my own shotgun to defend the store from thieves until the sheriff arrived. That’s why I take our Second Amendment rights seriously!”

OK, that one set me back a bit. I was trying to picture that. A robber comes in the door, obviously armed with some kind of weapon if he’s going to rob the store. He says to the teenage girl behind the counter, “Give me the money.”  But instead of doing that, she calmly turns around, grabs her shotgun, points it at the robber, picks up the phone on the counter — these were the days before cell phones — dials the number while holding the shotgun on the robber with one hand, tells the sheriff she’s got a bad guy at the store who tried to rob her, and she’ll hold him until the sheriff gets there.

Whew! And not just once, but on multiple occasions! And apparently no one ever got shot!

Well, that’s what I was picturing that morning after reading her e-mail. And I was starting to sniff a little George Santos here.

But I guess that isn’t the way it happened. I found this story on the website of WDAY Radio this week, filed by a reporter I don’t know, Steve Hallstrom. He appears to be affiliated with the right-wing radio station The Flag, whose studios are located at 2852 Thunder Road in Fargo. (Can you think of a more appropriate address for a right-wing talk show?) I don’t know how it ended up on WDAY’s website. It’s a long, long story for a radio show, really showcasing the lieutenant governor. Her cops and robbers story is growing. Here’s the part that caught my attention:

“My parents were in the lumber and hardware business. They had a business called Miller Shopping Center on the Prairie that was situated out of town.  And as kids growing up, we all worked there. I wanted to work at the Dairy Queen but instead had to work at the store and as the boss’s daughter, got to do a lot of the jobs that others didn’t do, including cleaning toilets, stocking shelves and all of those things. And with our business out in the middle of nowhere, we were often the victim of thieves. So, when the alarm went off, our house was only a mile away from the store and we would grab our shotguns and go and guard the store until the sheriff arrived. So that’s a little bit of my growing up.”

Well, first of all, I don’t know if Brocket, population about 100 when she was growing up there, ever had a Dairy Queen. Seems a stretch.

But the robber part, well, that’s a little different scenario than what I was imagining from her earlier e-mail.

So, when the alarm went off at the store. Daddy said to his teenage daughter, all pretty in pink and pigtails, “Grab your gun, Tammy, honey, there’s some bad guys over at the store and we’re going to go nab them and hold them until the sheriff comes to get them.”

Y’know, I think most parents would have said, “Tammy, there’s something going on over at the store. You get in the house with your mom and lock the doors and don’t let anyone in until I get back.”

Also, it’s funny that the little town of Brocket, North Dakota would be a hotbed for robbers. But there’s a consistency here, aside from the “cops and robbers” part. She’s still cleaning toilets. I can hardly wait for the next update on the shotgun and robbers story. George Santos, I challenge you to top this.

Meanwhile, her e-mails just keep coming. The latest one had this pitch for money:

“Welcome back, JIm

“No need to fill out your donor information again. Just fill out your payment information and donate with one more click.”

Well, I usually don’t spell my name with a capital I in it, and I certainly haven’t given her my donor information— oh, wait, I gave it to Doug Burgum this past summer. Well, yeah, it looks like he’s all in on this one.

Meanwhile, looks like our U. S. congressman, Kelly Armstrong, is getting left behind. His years of service as a banner-carrying conservative are just going in the ditch. He’s coming home from Washington to run for governor and was already in the race, and then Burgum dumped on him.

Now Kelly’s a pretty good guy, even though he’s a bit too too conservative for me. But then, I’m too liberal for him, too. He told me the other day that former U.S. Attorney General William Barr told him early in his congressional stint that he was “the least crazy of the crazies” in the House of Representatives. So that’s something.

I just get the sense that he really doesn’t want to live in Washington, D.C. He has a young family back here, and he’d like to watch the teenagers growing up. He said he got to spend 60 nights at home last year. He’d like a lot more. He actually moved his family to Bismarck when he went to Washington, so when he flew home on weekends, he wouldn’t have to drive back and forth to Dickinson.

If he’s not elected governor, he has plenty of other options. He can go back to practicing law in his old law firm, or he can go back to work for the family corporation, the Armstrong Corp., a Dickinson oilfield company that has made his dad, Mike, one of the state’s richest men.

And he has lots of government experience, both in the North Dakota Capitol as a state senator and  the U.S. Capitol as a congressman. But the one thing he has going against him, in my mind, is that he’s from west of the Missouri River. That’s a problem. Our governors don’t generally come from out there. I did a little looking and I could only find four of our 33 governors from the “West”: Art Link, John Moses, George Shafer and Frank Briggs. And Moses was born in Norway, Briggs in Minnesota. They just settled out there when they grew up. Link grew up on a farm in McKenzie County, and Shafer in Mandan. Just four westerners. Heck, the little town of Casselton has that many. Could Armstrong make it five?

Well, he has another problem. He’s a lawyer, and North Dakotans don’t much like lawyers to be their governors. Farmers and businessmen — yes, “men,” so far — are their choices. The only two lawyers I can think of are Allen Olson and Bill Langer. There might be more, but I haven’t gone digging for that. Later. Many have tried, but few were chosen. Like, recently, Nick Spaeth, Heidi Heitkamp and Wayne Stenehjem.

So, the North Dakota governor’s race is shaping up. What’s odd is that news reports I have seen say that Tammy Miller is going to bypass the State Republican Convention and take her race directly to the primary election in June. That just seems odd. She’s the lieutenant governor of North Dakota, the second-highest elected official in the state, and she’s been endorsed by the first-highest elected official, the governor, and yet she’s not going to her party’s state convention?

One would think that it would be fitting for the sitting governor to cap off his career by standing at the podium and proudly endorsing his chosen successor, to the roars and cheers of his delegates. But this is going to be a very weird convention, even stranger than the last one, when Rick Becker almost unseated an incumbent U.S. senator.

And then, that incumbent governor/lieutenant governor team is going to challenge their party’s endorsed candidate to be the next governor in the primary? That just seems weird. But don’t be surprised if there’s some plotting going on, and there’s an effort to draft Miller at the convention. It’s likely the “crazies” are going to dominate the convention. She seems to be one of them — when she’s not cleaning toilets.

But what this all means is that these two very wealthy Republicans are going to flood the airwaves and our mailboxes in the most relentless manner we’ve ever seen between now and June 11. And they have to try and stay friendly. Miller’s already on TV with an ad featuring Burgum and Trump. Armstrong has endorsed Trump. Miller, too. I don’t know if Trump will endorse either one of them, but he’s obviously consented to let her use him in her ads.

Something that might make a difference in the primary will be their choice of running mates. The governor and lieutenant governor run as a team, so each of them has to pick someone pretty soon.

That might be a bit of a problem for Armstrong, who’s seeking the party’s endorsement at the convention because the convention delegates get to choose their endorsed candidates, including lieutenant governor. So Kelly has to be sure to pick someone he thinks the convention would support. And SHE neeeds to be from the EAST. Hmmm. Didn’t we once have a lieutenant governor named Myrdal?

3 thoughts on “JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — George Santos, Meet Tammy Miller”

  • Julie Burgum February 24, 2024 at 2:32 pm

    One little correction, there have been 5 governors from Casselton.

  • John Burke February 24, 2024 at 4:56 pm

    Governor John Burke was also a lawyer, as were John Moses, George Shafer, and Regnvald Nestos. Burke and Nestos also both served on the North Dakota Supreme Court.

  • JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Convention Notes … So Far – UNHERALDED.FISH April 7, 2024 at 1:07 pm

    […] start with Tammy Miller, “Tall Tale Tammy” as Kelly Armstrong calls her. I think I get an assist on that one, […]


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