Those who regularly read The Minuteman probably know that I like Gary Emineth. When he briefly entered the U.S. Senate race in hopes of going head to head with Heidi Heitkamp, I was supportive. Of course, that was before U.S. Congressman Kevin Cramer changed his mind and jumped in the race— causing Emineth to withdraw.
Not long after withdrawing from the U.S. Senate race and endorsing Kevin Cramer, Emineth decided to throw his hat in the ring for the District 35 Republican endorsement for State Senate— a legislative body in desperate need of his limited government views. The party obliged and by the end of March he was their man.
Emineth’s opponent is no pushover. Democrat and State Senator Erin Oban is seeking her second term in office after defeating the Republican incumbent Margaret Sitte in 2014. Though she’s in the minority party, Oban has her views and a record to match them. She’s been rated the second most liberal State Senator by the American Conservative Union. You can see her speak out on specific issues in this video compilation of her floor speeches from last Legislative Session.
When Emineth made the decision to take on Oban, I wasn’t the only one who anticipated a hotly contested race. In fact, while making the case that Senator Oban needs to go, I wrote that it turned what appeared to be an uncontested race into perhaps the most compelling one for the State Legislature. Unfortunately, its been a bit underwhelming so far. And I’m not the only one to notice. Multiple people have expressed as much to me in recent weeks.
When I first heard questions about Emineth’s campaign, I shrugged them off. At the time, not only was Emineth running uncontested for the District 35 Republican nomination in the June Primary, but he was also helping to lead an effort to put an initiated measure on the ballot that will propose a change to the State Constitution ensuring that non-citizens are prohibited from voting in North Dakota. And with a signature deadline of July 9th at the time, Emineth and his crew were in a crunch. But they met the deadline by turning in more than 35,000 signatures.
After meeting the deadline, I fully expected Emineth to ramp up his campaign against Oban. Yet, here we sit just 91 days to the General Election and it saddens me to admit that I’m a bit disappointed. Take his Facebook page for example. There’s no real regular content. He has just over 750 followers, while Oban has over 3,300. I know it’s difficult for some to believe, but social media engagement matters. Then there’s his website which doesn’t even have a section on issues related to District 35 and North Dakota. We already know the budget will be an issue in the upcoming Legislative Session. Where does he stand on that? What about the Legacy Fund? Infrastructure? And the list could go on.
I get it that in the course of three months a lot can happen in politics. I get it that if not done properly voters can be worn out with political ads— Heaven knows I’m already tired of Heidi Heitkamp radio spots. I get it that there’s often the “October Surprise” a candidate can run against their opponent. But Oban’s the incumbent. She has name recognition and likely the upper hand.
While Emineth is a former Chairman of the NDGOP, that was 2007 – 2010. If three months in politics can be a long time, then 8 – 11 years ago is an eternity. Yes, it’s true his name recognition likely raised a bit with his brief entry into the U.S. Senate race. A few more voters probably know about him as a result of the non-citizens voting measure. And yes, there’s been some door to door efforts— which is fantastic. But Emineth needs to run an aggressive and well-rounded campaign. And he needs to do it… now.
In addition to helping the voters of District 35 become more familiar with who he is, Gary Emineth needs to get the message out – loud and clear – of what he stands for. He needs to relay a distinct and clear vision of what he can bring to the State Senate that will benefit his district and the State of North Dakota. And in doing so, he has to differentiate himself from Erin Oban and show why he’s the better candidate.
Door to door, radio spots, various local events, newspaper ads, interviews, social media, etc. are all going to be needed to effectively increase his name recognition and get his message out. We’ll know on November 6th, but I’m guessing that anything less than a consistent and total campaign package between now and then will only mean another term for State Senator Erin Oban.
Please, Gary, make this the campaign some of us thought it would be. Take Senator Oban to task for her record and your campaign – in every way possible – to the people. We need you in the State Senate.