JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Shotguns, Dead Dogs, Liars And Courtrooms

This article first appeared in the May issue of High Plains Reader.

I am an old man. I have been a politics junkie most of my life. I have been involved in many campaigns, but have not run for office myself. Each time someone has suggested I do that, I tell them the same thing: I will not put my name on a ballot until all my college roommates are dead. Luckily for me, a few of them are still with us. Brad, Ron, Jim, you know who you are. Ssshhh.

But in all my years of participating in other people’s campaigns, I have never seen anything like what’s going on in 2024. Let me share a few of my thoughts, on both the North Dakota and American elections.

This year, we endure — some of us smugly — the spectacle of the Republican candidate for president of the United States sitting day-after-day in a courtroom in the urban jungle of New York City, facing the prospect of losing what’s left of his fortune and sitting in jail on Election Day, versus two women out on the prairie trying to outdo each other with their shotguns, seeking to be the “Baddest Broad on the Prairie With A Gun.”

Let’s deal with the prairie first. As I write this a few weeks before our state’s primary election, I am witnessing the ugliest, meanest, most negative campaign I have ever seen. And that’s not Democrats and Republicans beating up on each other. It’s Republican vs. Republican — Tammy Miller vs. Kelly Armstrong.

For the purpose of brevity, I’m going to call them Mrs. Miller and Mr. Armstrong (a la New York Times). Lieutenant governor and representative take up too much space in a small newspaper. The accusations flying back and forth between them in negative TV ads are astonishing. Mostly, Liar vs. Lawyer.

Mr. Armstrong seemed to start it, with a TV ad labeling Mrs. Miller “Tall Tale Tammy” after Mrs. Miller boasted on TV that she held robbers at bay with her shotgun “until the sheriff arrived” at her parents’ store. Well, at least she didn’t take the robbers out to a gravel pit and shoot them, like Mrs. Noem (there’s that brevity thing again) down in South Dakota.

Mrs. Miller fired back, saying that Mr. Armstrong is a “politician and trial lawyer, both of which struggle with the truth,” while her campaign spokesman accused Mr. Armstrong of choosing to defend the kind of people like those Arlo Guthrie described as people in Group W, “mean, nasty, ugly-lookin’ people … mother rapers … father stabbers … father rapers …”

Mrs. Miller also ran a TV ad showing her with ear protectors on, shooting a pistol at a gun range, saying, “A good guy — or a girl — with a gun is the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun.” My, how original. Mr. Armstrong replied with a pretty lame TV ad showing him shooting with a bow and arrow. (I’d bet on the gun.)

And then Mrs. Miller accused Mr. Armstrong of insider trading in Congress, which caused Mr. Armstrong to run a TV commercial with big bold letters covering the whole screen that said TAMMY MILLER IS LYING.

I don’t know what’s to become of this. I guess, based on his campaign war chest (leftover congressional campaign funds) and statewide name recognition, I’d give the edge to Mr. Armstrong, but the question is whether Mrs. Miller can do enough damage in the month before the primary to benefit his Democratic-NPL opponent, Merrill Piepkorn, in the fall. Probably not, because the same people who will vote in November are those who still support that former president sitting in a New York courtroom facing at least four criminal charges and a host of other legal problems if he gets by those.

I’m keeping a close eye on the presidential race, not because I want to but because of a little self-serving greed that backfired on me last year. You’ll recall that Mr. Burgum (that brevity thing again) ran for president and in order to qualify to participate in the candidates’ debate, he had to reach a certain donor level, so he offered $20 gift cards to anyone who would contribute as little as $1 to his campaign.

I just couldn’t resist participating in that little stunt. I gave a dollar. I got a gift card. I bought a $19 bottle of wine. Pretty good, too. Mr. Burgum debated, he lost, and he dropped out. But as he did so, he gave his donor list, including me, to Mr. Trump. Including my e-mail address, and my cell phone number. It’s the latter that is particularly bothersome.

Mr. Trump’s campaign assumes I’m a Republican because I donated to Mr. Burgum, and I’m plagued by daily text messages from his campaign. The texts haven’t stopped while Trump sits farting in a courtroom, so I don’t think he’s sending them himself. Probably some staffer, or one of his kids or lawyers or mistresses. They started in mid-March, with this:

From: (561) 292-5183

From Trump: HANDS OFF TRUMP TOWER! Radical Democrats want to SEIZE MY PROPERTY!

Read my emergency update: https://d.gopgivenow.com/H52GfKD23Xc

Reply Stop to Stop

Well, I didn’t read it because of the letters “gopgivenow,” told me what to expect if I clicked.

But they kept coming, day after day, even though I followed the note at the end that said, “Reply Stop to Stop,” which was a mistake, as my daughter pointed out to me, because that told them I was reading them, and they cranked up the machine.

As I write this, I have received nearly 60 texts, including 13 in one day, March 27. What’s fascinating is they all came from different phone numbers, and many different area codes, so any attempt to block a number wouldn’t do any good. They start with one-liners like this, followed by a link to click on to donate to the Trump campaign.



Attached is HIGHLY CLASSIFIED INFO only for you from Trump Jr.

Are you in or out, Patriot?

You for VP? That’d be something. I NEED TO KNOW: Who should my VP pick be?

I’m dying to meet you, Patriot! Would you like to be my SPECIAL GUEST at Mar-a-Lago?

And the most recent one, just before I wrote this, said:

Choose the VP candidate NOW!

— Don Jr.

Link expires in 15 minutes

Well, I missed the 15 minute deadline, so I didn’t get to vote. Dang! I’d have had to choose between Mrs. Noem and Mr. Burgum. Not sure what I’d have done. Mrs. Noem has pulled off the publicity stunt of the century with her boast in her forthcoming book that she took her dog to the gravel pit and shot it, enraging animal lovers all over but, I’m sure, delighting Mr. Trump. Top that, Mr. Burgum.

But Mr. Burgum’s stock seems to be rising in the news media, and it was he, not Mrs. Miller, who attended Mr. Trump’s $800,000 a ticket Easter Brunch at Mar a Lago. You read that right — a small gamble for a rich man whose net worth has been estimated at more than $1.1 billion, for the possibility of becoming vice president of the United States — dang, that wasted a lot of space.

By the time you read this, Mr. Trump’s vice president pick may already be public news, and Mrs. Noem might have a new dog, and Mrs. Miller may have oiled her shotgun to check on her parents’ store, and Mr. Armstrong (remember him?) might be well on his way from the halls of the U.S. Capitol to the halls of the North Dakota Capitol.

There are other races on the Republican ballot in North Dakota in June, like a five-way race for Congress and more candidates for the Legislature than there are legislative seats available.

Not so for struggling Democrats. Their party is just limping into this year’s elections, although the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party’s  Chairman Adam Goldwyn fired a salvo after Republican Rep. Jason Dockter was convicted of using his legislative seat for personal gain, saying, “From Ray Holmberg, to Nico Rios, to Jason Dockter, and to Donald Trump, today’s Republican Party is full of crooks. Let this be a warning to anyone who thinks they can use an elected office to enrich themselves and deceive the American public: No one is above the law. If you want a party that respects the law, it’s time to vote for the Dem-NPL.”

Full of crooks. Strong words.  We’ll talk about those, and the other North Dakota races, next time.

3 thoughts on “JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Shotguns, Dead Dogs, Liars And Courtrooms”

  • John Burke May 20, 2024 at 12:22 pm

    I’m still struggling with how Burgum’s $1 donation for a $20 gift certificate isn’t a campaign finance violation!

  • Mylo Candee May 21, 2024 at 4:14 pm

    I’d guess it was a political party fundraising stunt not a legitimate campaign for a government office

  • JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Election Thoughts – UNHERALDED.FISH June 5, 2024 at 9:01 am

    […] written earlier about the bloody battle between Kelly Armstrong and Tammy Miller, a battle I’m pretty sure Armstrong hates because he’s […]


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