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Monke: Democrats can’t afford to wait for candidates

The way things are shaping up, western North Dakota’s legislative elections are going to be one-horse races.

There is a little more than two weeks remaining until the April 7 filing deadline for party candidacy in the 2014 election and the Democrat-NPL party hasn’t had a single person announce their candidacy in western North Dakota’s five legislative districts — including the three that encompass much of The Dickinson Press’ coverage area.

If for nothing else than the sake of democracy, North Dakota Democrat’s need to get candidates lined up in the west and get them on the campaign trail.

In the last legislative session, there was a lot of complaining from Democrats about the state Legislature’s “Republican supermajority” and how their party had little to no voice in matters. So far, very few in the state are even attempting to become that voice. And not a single one in our area.

Now, I don’t believe the Democrats have given up on western North Dakota. But I do think they understand how much of a battle it is to get quality, competitive candidates here.

Of the politically active Democrats I speak to on a regular basis, most are confident they’ll be able to find candidates able to challenge Republican incumbents. The trouble is, being a Democrat in western North Dakota these days is like being a Republican in San Francisco. You can run a great campaign, say and do all the right things, have great ideas and North Dakotan ideals, and you’re still going to be sledding uphill solely because of the popular mindset.

It doesn’t help North Dakota Democrats — especially those on the western edge — that their national leaders are far removed from the moderate, “non-partisan” mentality their party was built on within the state, and so vocally oppose almost everything that has made the Oil Patch the economic envy of the nation.

In the 2012 legislative election, incumbent Democrat Shirley Meyer lost her District 36 seat in the House of Representatives by less than 2 percent. Republicans Mike Schatz and Alan Fehr were elected.

I can’t help but think it’s because Meyer had a “D” next to her name on the ballot. She had served her district just fine in the Legislature. She had six sessions of experience under her belt, including the previous four, and sponsored bills that impacted her constituency. There’s plenty of legislators who have done a lot less in their time in office.

Chad Oban, the executive director of the state’s Democrat-NPL party, told The Press on Friday that he doesn’t think people will care in November who announced their candidacy when. But it surely doesn’t help his party that voters are beginning to hear that Democrats are still searching for candidates while the Republicans are ready to go with mostly incumbents.

But who? And if they’re out there, what’s the sense in keeping it a secret until after the party’s state convention next weekend or the filing deadline? This is hurting North Dakota Democrats in a part of the state where they can’t afford it.

The Democrats have good people out there who could be assets to the state’s Legislature and there are people in western North Dakota who want a bipartisan mix of local representatives.

So, who will anyone step to the plate?

Monke is the managing editor of The Dickinson Press. Email him at dmonke@thedickinsonpress.com, tweet him at monkebusiness and read his past columns and features at monke.areavoices.com.

Dustin Monke

Monke came to The Dickinson Press in July 2006 as the newspaper's sports editor and was hired as its managing editor in March 2013. During his tenure at The Press, Monke has won multiple awards for sports reporting, feature reporting, column writing, page design and photography. He was a key part of The Press winning the North Dakota Newspaper Association's General Excellence and Sweepstakes awards in 2009 and 2012, and oversaw The Press' Sweepstakes and General Excellence wins in 2014, as well as its national first-place honors for Community Leadership in the Inland Daily Press Association and contributed to the first-place Inland award for Investigative Reporting. As the newspaper's editor, he writes an occasional Sunday column, is a member of The Press' Editorial Board, contributes feature stories and breaking news, designs pages, and oversees the day-to-day operations of the newsroom and editorial staff. In his free time, he enjoys watching sports and action movies, exercises whenever his schedule allows, and spends every minute he can with his wife and son.

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