Hennen: GOP dominates politics in ND, but frustrations surfaced in Senate battle – InForum
This is the season when Democrats and Republicans come together at conventions to decide who will be their endorsed candidates for the upcoming primary and general elections. I’m not sure there could be a starker contrast between the larger political parties in North Dakota.
Republicans seated a record number of delegates last Saturday in Bismarck with 2,321. Democrats only managed to muster 258 delegates. Yet much of the media coverage has managed to gloss over this important fact in favor of predicting chaos for Republicans. One story even suggested that “infighting was likely to break out.” As a witness of the day, I can report that civility won the day despite a much-watched battle for GOP endorsement for the US Senate.
In our legislature, there are 119 Republicans and only 21 Democrats. Republicans hold 13 of the statewide Constitutional offices. Democrats hold zero. The last Democrat to hold one of North Dakota’s three federal positions, Heidi Heitkamp, was beaten in 2018 by 11 points. It is the total domination of a political party.
Yet many of us conservatives are still extremely frustrated with what we see from a Democratic president and Congress. Every day feels like a battle to hold on to the ground gained under President Donald Trump. This frustration led some in the Republican ranks to conclude that former Gov. John Hoeven, seeking his 3rd term in the US Senate, was not fighting hard enough. They gave their support to an outgoing legislator,
Rick Becker, a plastic surgeon from Bismarck. Becker is a vocal champion of Republicans taking a more libertarian approach to governance. His accomplishments were slim during his tenure in the legislature, but he managed to tap into frustrations with his eloquence.
Hoeven is not fond of bombastic speeches and the “red meat” approach to pissing off the conservative crowd. He has a long history of fighting for agriculture, energy, and North Dakota’s booming tech sector. But he is more of a doer than a talker. President Trump endorsed him, and his family values and pro-growth economic votes were hailed by most major constituencies.
Becker’s team adopted a strategy of grabbing as many delegate spots at early district conventions. They started with a huge lead. But it motivated Hoeven supporters to beat Becker supporters at their own game at later conventions, many of which were in higher population centers. You only need a simple majority.
Hoeven’s team had almost 200 more votes when the first ballot was tallied. And those of us watching saw healthy debate and a clear victory. Becker called for unity and rightly applauded his supporters, many of whom were new to the political process. Hoeven also learned an important lesson. Don’t assume that your supporters know how hard you fight.
Now, Republicans in North Dakota should do whatever they can to help regain a majority in November. And we should channel our frustrations into demanding conservative principles at the local level. North Dakota is a beacon of success for Republicans. Let’s use it to do the most good where we live.
Scott Hennen hosts the national radio show “What’s On Your Mind?” On AM 1100 “The Flag”, KFYR AM 550, AM 1090 KTGO “The Flag” and AM 1460 KLTC. Email him at
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Forum Editorial Board or the owners of the Forum.