It’s a brilliant idea. One that I can’t claim as my own. Last week, while visiting with a highly respected state official, the topic of the United States Senate campaign came up. Who would be best positioned to beat Democratic incumbent Heidi Heitkamp?
After acknowledging the wide-spread belief that current Republican candidate Tom Campbell doesn’t have much of a chance against her, a name I had not heard this election cycle came up– former Governor Ed Schafer. Yes, according to this individual, he has heard Schafer’s name floated around in political circles as a possible candidate versus the sitting U.S. Senator.
I’m admittedly taking it with a grain of salt as I write this. Do I believe Ed Schafer is seriously considering a run at U.S. Senate? No, I don’t– even if his name has been bantered about among some in the Republican Party. For one reason, Schafer is 71 years old. Not that he’s “ancient” by today’s standard. The average life expectancy of a white American male is over 76 years old. The average age for a white North Dakotan male is over 77– a year younger than Schafer would be at the end of a term in the U.S. Senate, if he were elected.
But let’s put age aside for a moment and consider the potential of an Ed Schafer for U.S. Senate campaign. First, his credentials:
– Bachelor’s Degree from the University of North Dakota
– MBA from the University of Denver
– President of the Gold Seal Company (a manufacturing firm) from 1978 – 1985
– Governor of North Dakota from 1992 – 2000
– U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under President George W. Bush from 2008 – 2009
– Acting President of the University of North Dakota from January 2016 – July 2016
And those are just the highlights. Schafer is wildly popular in North Dakota. Listen to any speech at a Town Hall by current U.S. Congressman Kevin Cramer and you’ll probably hear him talk about the impact that is felt in the Republican Party and North Dakota politics even today as a result of the service of Governor Ed Schafer– and you’ll see the nodding of agreement in the room.
Heck, Congressman Cramer was even part of an effort with Senator’s John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkam to honor Ed Schafer by renaming the “Red River Valley Agricultural Research Center” the “ Edward T. Schafer Agricultural Research Center“.
When Schafer came out and endorsed Doug Burgum for governor in 2016, I remember hearing more than once that if Burgum won he would owe it in large part to that endorsement. As you know, Burgum did win – in a landslide – and is our governor today.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Schafer’s name has surfaced in the talk of U.S. Senate candidates. Back in 2003, President George W. Bush actually had Schafer to the White House to encourage him to run against then sitting Senator Byron Dorgan. Bush wanted to break the death grip that Democrats had on North Dakota’s seats in Washington, and he saw Schafer as the perfect man to do it.
Unfortunately for North Dakotan’s, Schafer resisted the urging of the President of the United States and never took on Senator Dorgan, who later retired at the end of his term in January 2011– a seat now occupied by John Hoeven. In fact, Schafer made his feelings about a Senate candidacy crystal clear when he said, “I don’t need to have senator on my resume to be complete in life.”
So, is Ed Schafer likely to fire up the old political machinery and throw his hat into the ring against Senator Heidi Heitkamp? Probably not. But man, wouldn’t it be fun to watch?
Schafer could probably walk into a State Republican Convention without campaigning beforehand and walk out with the party’s endorsement. And a General Election bid versus Heitkamp would be enough to mobilize a Republican Army. Perhaps unlike anything seen in North Dakota politics before. Could he win? (***Insert giggle here.***) No question. In fact, Heitkamp would likely want to save herself the embarrassment and just withdraw.
How ’bout it, Ed? Just once… for North Dakota.
4. https://cramer.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/cramer-house-passes-bill-honoring-former-secretary-of-agriculture-ed 5. http://www.agweek.com/news/4270502-congress-renames-fargo-ag-lab-edward-t-schafer 6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlkhoS9kKUg