Back in February, we published an article about information given to The Minuteman that Governor Doug Burgum was actively seeking challengers to conservative candidates in key primary season races. At the time, the races made known to us were State Auditor (Josh Gallion), State Treasurer (Dan Johnston), and District 36 House (Luke Simons).
As it turned out, the bid to find a challenger for Gallion in the upcoming Republican primary was unsuccessful. Simons was challenged at his district convention by a Stark County Commissioner, Carla Arthaud. But Simons easily came away victorious and Arthaud chose not to go to the primary.
Yet, Burgum’s quest against conservative candidates continued last week when he came out with endorsements for State Treasurer (Thomas Beadle) and District 28 House (Mike Brandenburg and Jim Grueneich).
The State Treasurer’s race pits Representatives Dan Johnston (R – District 24) and Thomas Beadle (R – District 27) against one another. Back in December, the longest serving State Treasurer in North Dakota history, Kelly Schmidt (R), announced she wouldn’t seek a fifth term for the office.
The differences between these two candidates is pretty significant.
On the one hand, we have Johnston— an unabashed conservative Republican. On the other, there is Beadle— a less than stellar Republican. Johnston was elected to the House in 2016 along with other conservative additions. Beadle was elected in 2010 and is considered to be a more establishment-type figure.
Johnston’s ranking with the American Conservative Union last legislative session was 85% (Lifetime is 88%). Beadle’s was 50% (Lifetime is 56%). To put that into perspective, the most conservative Democrat in the State House last session was Rep. Tracy Boe (D – District 9). He had a 62% ranking (Lifetime is 43%).
As an interesting side note, Rep. Beadle voted for a bill during the 2017 Legislative Session that sought to eliminate the office of Treasurer— a task Democratic Senator Tim Mathern (District 11) wanted to accomplish when he ran against State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt in 2016. Though Beadle’s been trying to explain away his vote since it came into the light on the campaign trail.
It’s also worth noting here that while Johnston doesn’t have the favor of the governor, he has received the endorsement of U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer. We wrote about that early last month, and Senator Cramer has since done a mailer in support of Johnston.
District 28 House
The District 28 House race is an oddity. We published an article about this last week. Representatives Jeff Magrum and Mike Brandenburg received their party’s endorsement, at their district conventions, back in February. They beat former District 12 Representative Jim Grueneich.
Grueneich moved into District 28 earlier this year. And though he didn’t win the party’s endorsement, he determined that he’d move on to the primary anyhow. This set up a three-way race.
What’s odd about all of this? Well, since that convention, Grueneich has joined with Brandenburg and the endorsed Senate candidate, Robert Erbele, to campaign as a team. It’s an unusual — some even say deceptive — move. Add in the governor’s endorsement, and it’s just not typical at all.
There’s a number of differences between Rep. Magrum and his counterparts. Spending is certainly one of them. Magrum rejects bloated government and feels the budget has grown too much. It’s an issue Brandenburg and Grueneich are hitting him on. Which is kind of odd considering the current state of our economy and job loss in North Dakota.
Other issues that highlight the differences between Magrum and Brandenburg/Grueneich are private property rights, transparency, and guns.
For example, last session there was an effort to end the practice of “quick take eminent domain”. If you’re unfamiliar with the practice, you can read about it here. In a nutshell, it allows government to “take possession of the private property prior to a final determination of compensation for the property.” Not only is it a horrible violation of private property rights, but due process as well. Brandenburg and Grueneich both voted against the effort to eliminate it.
Brandenburg and Grueneich also voted for legislation to strip the State Auditor of his authority to initiate performance audits— Burgum signed it into law. Magrum was the one who exposed the power grab during floor debate on the issue and voted against it. It should come as no surprise then that State Auditor Josh Gallion endorsed Magrum last week.
Magrum used “Stand Your Ground” legislation to advocate that people have a right to more effectively defend themselves. Brandenburg and Grueneich voted against it. In fact, they opposed a total of three pro-gun bills that week.
The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Vote
Interestingly enough, there’s something else to consider here. And that is how each of these candidates voted on the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.
You might recall that Governor Burgum was the leading advocate of the project. In fact, he included it as part of his Executive Budget Address in December of 2018.
At the conclusion of the 2019 Legislative Session — and after a lot of debate — Burgum got his library. As a result, taxpayers are on the hook for a $50 million endowment— $15 million of that comes from the General Fund and the other $35 million is a loan from the Bank of North Dakota. These dollars ultimately rest on private donors coming up with $100 million for construction.
Voting in favor of the library was Representatives Beadle, Brandenburg, and Grueneich. Opposed to it were Representatives Johnston and Magrum. In light of this, is it coincidence or political retribution? (Side Note: Rep. Luke Simons also voted against it.)
So Much for Breaking up the Good ‘ol Boys Club
In June 2016, Doug Burgum pulled off one of the great upsets in North Dakota’s political history by beating Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem for the Republican nomination for governor. He did so on two fronts. One, as a conservative. And two, as someone who would break up “the good ‘ol boys club”.
The 2016 campaign video of Burgum brandishing his claim of conservatism is gone. It’s literally been removed.
Burgum’s promise of breaking up the good ‘ol boys club simply doesn’t appear to be all that it was cracked up to be. Guess who else has joined in on endorsing Beadle for Treasurer? The same guy Burgum trashed in the 2016 primary campaign— Wayne Stenehjem.
When we consider the 2016 history, it’s all a bit perplexing. Toss in Representatives Brandenburg and Grueneich and we’re left to wonder what ever happened to Burgum’s supposed conservatism and commitment to breaking up the the good ‘ol boys club?
I believe that what we’re seeing is a battle for the heart and soul of the North Dakota Republican Party. And it’s all out in the open now. In his effort to build his own political establishment, Burgum is coalescing with some of the very same political figures who have been part of the problem in Bismarck. And he’s trying to defeat conservative candidates in order to do it.
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