The NDGOP State Convention kicked off in Grand Forks today. While there was no official call to order or endorsing of candidates, according to an agenda we were able to obtain, the days activities consisted of:
- Resolutions Committee Meetings
- State Committee Meeting
- Delegate Registration
- Legislative Caucus Meetings
- Credentials Committee Meeting
- Page Orientation
- and the Governor’s Club Dinner
In a nutshell, it was really a day of preparation and orientation for convention-goers. Those attending also had the opportunity to visit vendor booths, mingle in candidate’s hospitality suites, and to visit with available candidates. According to delegate registration, attendance to this year’s convention has exceeded expectations. Reports are that over 1,500 delegates have registered— in a venue that seats a maximum of 1,600.
Perhaps the most anticipated item on tomorrow’s convention agenda is the U.S. House race. By now, many North Dakotans are familiar with State Senators Kelly Armstrong and Tom Campbell. Without question, these two candidates are viewed as the frontrunners. Yet, they’re not the only ones— there’s four more.
In addition to Armstrong and Campbell, there’s also:
- Tiffany Abentroth – according to her bio, Abentroth is a fifth generation farm girl. She served in the Marines and was a government contractor. Her website shows just three issues of focus— agriculture, education, and veterans. Abentroth raised some eyebrows on social media when she expressed a pro-choice view on abortion. She later expressed the same in a radio interview with Todd Mitchell. You can hear it at the 29 minute mark here.
- Paul Schaffner – back in February, Schaffner announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate, but later switched to the U.S. House side after Congressman Kevin Cramer had a change of heart and jumped into the U.S. Senate race. Schaffner has been plagued by the stigma that goes along with being convicted of soliciting a prostitute. One of Schaffner’s challenges is messaging. Unless you’ve heard him at district conventions or in a recent debate, it’s difficult for the general public to know his stances on the issues. His website is difficult to find on Google and his Facebook page is vague.
- DuWayne Hendrickson – this isn’t Hendrickson’s first go around. It’s his fifth run at U.S. House. Hendrickson considers himself the people’s candidate and a political outsider. While he doesn’t have a website, Hendrickson does have a Facebook page with extensive posts. He even did a Facebook Live video recently in which he answered questions on the issues. If you give it a listen, you’ll find that he’s not only an advocate of total legalization of marijuana, but he’s on the sponsoring committee for the petition effort to put it on the ballot. To his credit, Hendrickson is very genuine and a political straight shooter. For what it’s worth, he came in second to Kelly Armstrong in the recent College Republicans Straw Poll. He is the brother to Staff Sergeant Kenneth W. Hendrickson, who was killed while serving in Iraq. We memorialized Sergeant Hendrickson back in January.
- Charles Tuttle – you’re probably unfamiliar with Tuttle. He’s a late addition to the race, who is best known for his ability to run petition drives for initiated measures. Tuttle was – and is – a huge supporter of President Donald Trump. His message is one of breaking the political establishment and bringing accountability to Washington. Unfortunately, Tuttle has no website or Facebook page.
With six candidates in the U.S. House race, limited space may end up being a minor concern for tomorrow’s attendees. I’m told that each candidate will get a maximum of 30 minutes to present their case to the convention’s delegates. That means those in attendance may – and please forgive me for the terminology – endure nearly three hours of speeches from U.S. House candidates.
I mean no disrespect by saying that delegates must endure such an experience. The process by which the party determines its endorsed candidates is an important one. But three hours is a long time— pretty much regardless of who the candidates are. In speaking with some delegates today, they’re not looking forward to what some think may be a political marathon of sorts.
According to one conversation, attendees have been told to prepare for up to seven ballots to determine who the endorsed candidate for U.S. House will be. The reason for that is because a majority of ballots cast must be obtained in order to win the endorsement. Yet, others I spoke with don’t believe it will take seven ballots at all. Most felt it wouldn’t take anymore than three.
For the aforementioned lesser-known candidates, the prospects of a lengthy process probably hurts them the most. Whether it’s right or wrong, many within the party don’t take these four candidates seriously. If this feeling is widespread among delegates, it could quickly become a two-man race between Kelly Armstrong and Tom Campbell.
While Kelly Armstrong has said that he will abide by the results of the convention, Tom Campbell and Tiffany Abentroth are both expected to run in the June primary, regardless of the outcome at tomorrow’s convention.