JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Convention Notes … So Far

Saturday morning. The first Saturday of April. Time for Spring. I’ve played a lot of golf on the first Saturday of April over the years.  Not last year, of course, when there was 2 feet of snow on the ground outside my bedroom window. But this year, the grass is getting a green tint out there, and I’d at least probably go hit some balls on the driving range if I felt better.

Actually, I had planned to be in Fargo this weekend, hopping back and forth between the Democratic-NPL and Republican conventions, but the worst cold of my life has me hopping from the bedroom to the recliner — and no further. And not really hopping. More like shuffling. So I’ll just read the online newspaper reports and check the TV from time to time and try to share my thoughts and feelings on the goings-on in the world of North Dakota politics.

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

Lt. Gov. Tammy wants to move up into the governor’s office. But history is not on her side. Over the years, North Dakota’s lieutenant governors haven’t fared well when they tried to make that move. Many have tried, but few were chosen.

Actually, as best I can tell, only two of North Dakota’s 30-some lieutenant governors have succeeded. A number of them, including such luminous names as Walter Welford, Ole Olson and Walter Maddock, acceded to the governor’s office when their bosses either died in office or were removed for some malfeasance, becoming governor without being elected.

But Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who became governor when John Hoeven was elected to the U.S Senate in 2010, was elected on his own in 2012, serving one term.

You have to go way back into the 1890s to find the other one, a fellow named Roger Allin, who was elected lieutenant governor in 1890, and was elected governor in 1892, but served only two years after being denied his party’s nomination in 1894. (Governors served two-year terms back then.)

Tammy might well have received the same fate as Allin if she had tried to be nominated at her party’s convention, so she just skipped the convention and is running in the primary. It’s a weird scenario. As far as I can tell, no sitting elected official in North Dakota has ever told their party to just “Go f**k yourselves, I’ll see you at the primary. I don’t need your stinking party’s endorsement.”

Except the only reason she’s lieutenant governor is because the Republican Party elected Doug Burgum, who appointed her. Oh, it says in the paper she was going to go to the convention’s fundraising Governor’s Dinner on Friday night and then “spend the weekend campaigning in Oakes and Steele.”

Wow. While every Republican of note in North Dakota is at their party’s convention in Fargo, Tammy’s talking at the Steele, N.D., AMVETS breakfast Sunday morning. (Note: AMVETS members are kind of old, so their “breakfast” doesn’t start until 11:30.)

Unlike the Republicans, who scheduled a 7 a.m. Prayer Breakfast on Saturday morning in Fargo featuring Carson Wentz, who made big news earlier this week by signing a contract to play for the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. No word on the terms of his contract yet, but it has to be in the millions. After a big show in Kansas City, he scrambled back to Fargo for the event.

But I digress. Tammy did get the jump on her opponent, Kelly Armstrong, in naming a running mate. Tammy announced her pick as her lieutenant governor running mate Friday, an unknown bureaucrat in the Burgum administration by the name of Josh Teigen.

Now, Josh’s an unknown, but there have been Teigens involved in North Dakota politics before. A lawyer named Obert Teigen was a North Dakota Supreme Court justice for about 15 years back in the 1960s and ’70s.

And then there was Torfin. The infamous Torfin Teigen, a house painter from Fargo, perhaps North Dakota’s best-ever political gadfly. Torfin spent much of his time in his midlife to late life trying to get his name on ballots. His best stunt came in 1974. That summer, Justice Obert Teigen abruptly resigned from the court. I don’t know why. Gov. Art Link appointed a Democrat, J. Philip Johnson, to the seat, but it was just temporary because Johnson then had to run in the next election, that fall, to fill out the remainder of Obert Teigen’s 10-year term, which would have lasted until 1980.

Well, old Torfin thought, maybe they need another Teigen on the Supreme Court. Maybe they won’t notice the first names are different. Now Torfin had attended a year of law school in Minnesota back in the 1950s, but just a year, and never got a law degree. You have to be a lawyer to be on the North Dakota Supreme Court. But old Torfin told Secretary of State Ben Meier, when he handed in his papers to be on the ballot, that he was a lawyer. With a straight face.

Well, somebody, I think it was the State Bar Association, did a little checking (it didn’t take much) and got Ben to take Torfin’s name off the ballot. It made for some fun news stories at the time. (Johnson lost the election, by the way to a real lawyer named Paul Sand.)

Forum columnist Jim Shaw once ran another funny story in his column about Torfin. Shaw wrote, “It reminded me of when I was a reporter for WDAY-TV in the 1980s and 1990s, and Torfin Teigen submitted petitions signed by ‘Sen. Quentin Burdick,’ and ‘Mrs. Quentin Burdick.’ When I asked Teigen if the Burdicks really signed that petition, he said, ‘No. They weren’t home, but they would have signed it if they were home.’ At least Teigen was honest about the invalid signatures.”

He did actually get on the ballot once or twice, the latest, I think in 1980, when he ran for Congress. That was the year of Byron Dorgan’s first election to Congress. Democrat Dorgan got 166,437 votes to defeat Republican James Smykowski, who got 124,707 votes. Torfin got 928 votes. Exactly 0.3 per cent of the vote, by golly.

But again I digress. I don’t know if Josh is a grandson or nephew or even related to Torfin, but I hope someone asks him some day.

Another funny little note of irony I read in the paper this week is that North Dakota State Auditor Josh Gallion received the endorsement for re-election from Donald J. Trump. Well, I guess Trump does know something about auditors. And he seems to be learning more every day.

So the parties finished up their business Saturday. Republicans sent a slate of mostly incumbents out on the campaign trail, full of piss and vinegar after a rambunctious convention, and a few endorsed Democratic-NPL candidates stumbled out of Fargo looking for some hope. I don’t think they’ll find much, although there’s one glimmering possibility.

They endorsed a credible candidate for governor, Merrill Piepkorn. His near-fatal flaw is that he’s a Democrat in North Dakota. But if Tall Tale Tammy should happen to buy her way through the primary, with the riches she and her boss Burgum have in the bank, and defeat Kelly Armstrong, Merrill could stand a chance of being elected. Because she’ll surely self-destruct by November, despite her money.

Oh, and speaking of Kelly, I asked him in a text Friday night if he’d found a running mate yet. He wrote back “Yessir. And we’ve managed to keep it a secret until tomorrow.” The young fellow has a sense of humor. I’ll be eager to hear who it is. I expect she’s from the Red River Valley.

2 thoughts on “JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Convention Notes … So Far”

  • John Burke April 7, 2024 at 6:47 pm

    I “read for the bar” for a time under Justice Teigen after my father died in 1966. He was an extremely bright and pleasant man. Unfortunately or fortunately, it didn’t work out for me at that time, but I really appreciated his help. In the end, I’m glad to have had my law school experience at the U of Michigan. Justice Teigen died about six months after I graduated. I hope he knew I made it.

  • Richard Henry Watson April 8, 2024 at 8:25 am

    a simple thanks for making me chuckle in a time when American and ND politics make me weep with shame for us all


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