When Rep. Jim Grueneich moved from District 12 to District 28 earlier this year, he decided that he still wanted to be in the North Dakota Legislature. In front of him though was the reality that neither of District 28’s incumbents — Representatives Jeff Magrum and Mike Brandenburg — had any intention of stepping aside.
In February, when District 28 Republicans held their endorsing convention, Magrum came out on top as the leading vote getter (100 votes). Brandenburg edged Grueneich by one vote (51-50). (As a side note, incumbent State Senator Robert Erbele went unchallenged for the Senate endorsement.) You can see the House totals below:
With Magrum and Brandenburg coming away as the endorsed candidates, Grueneich announced his intentions to follow through with a decision he’d already made prior to the convention— he’d go to the primary if he couldn’t get the party’s endorsement.
What’s developed since then is quite unusual though. In fact, some even suggest it’s deceptive. What I’m referring to is illustrated by this picture sent to us from a reader of The Minuteman:
As you can see, Grueneich, Brandenburg, and Erbele are campaigning as though Grueneich is the endorsed candidate, when he’s not. This, of course, certainly isn’t illegal, but it’s most certainly portraying something that isn’t a reality.
Unfortunately, this isn’t altogether surprising. In part, because there’s history between Magrum and Brandenburg. About a year ago, fireworks erupted when Magrum blasted his fellow legislator at an Emmons County Commission meeting. According to Forum News Service:
“At issue were proposals to increase setback requirements for wind turbines. The commission ultimately agreed to boost those buffer zones, but didn’t go far enough for Magrum, who has raised concerns over wind farms’ effect on property rights.”
Add in that not only is Brandenburg a legislator, but he lobbies for the wind industry too. Then top that off with the fact that he’s not even from Emmon’s County, and it’s at least understandable why Magrum was upset and repeatedly asked Brandenburg on that occasion, “Who do you represent?”
(Picture Above: Rep. Jeff Magrum speaks with a supporter.)
In addition to this, both Brandenburg and Grueneich were at odds with Magrum on a high profile state issue last year. You’ll recall that during the final days of the 2019 Legislative Session a last minute provision was slipped into a bill to strip our State Auditor of his authority to initiate performance audits.
Magrum was the legislator who exposed the effort during floor debate and voted against it. But Brandenburg rose and defended the provision. Ultimately, he and Grueneich joined 70 other members of the House in voting for it. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem later issued an opinion that the power grab was unconstitutional.
There’s other differences between Magrum and his two counterparts. For example, when Magrum sponsored House Bill 1497 — also known as “Stand Your Ground” — during the 2019 Legislative Session, Brandenburg and Grueneich both opposed it. In fact, the two of them opposed a total of three pro-gun bills that week.
Differences, of course, aren’t anything new to primary challenges— regardless of the political party. And those differences should most definitely be discussed as part of a campaign. But what Grueneich, Brandenburg, and Erbele are doing by campaigning as a “team” is — at best — out of the norm when Grueneich is not the endorsed candidate. Having said that, based upon their history, I’m guessing Magrum was about as excited to campaign with Brandenburg as Brandenburg was with him.
At the end of the day, voters in District 28 should be informed enough to cast their ballot based upon things other than yard signs.
PLEASE LIKE & SHARE!
Note: The article originally read in relation to Rep. Mike Brandenburg, “…but he’s a lobbyist for the wind industry too.” That has now been changed to read, “…but he lobbies for the wind industry too.” The purpose of this change is to avoid confusion with the registered lobbyists listed on the North Dakota Secretary of State’s Office website.