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Party leaders warn against complacency at GOP convention

MINOT – Republican leaders warned against complacency as they celebrated the party’s successes at the beginning of the GOP State Convention on Saturday in Minot.

“If we act like we’re in first place, we’ll soon be in second,” state party Chairman Bob Harms said.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple touted the state’s progress under Republican leadership, citing its status as having the nation’s lowest unemployment rate and fastest-growing population.

“We have the opportunity to create a great future for North Dakota, but it is up to us to do it. We live in perhaps the most privileged state in the most privileged nation in the history of mankind. But that alone does not assure us of the quality of life we seek,” he said.

Harms said 812 delegates were seated for the first day of the two-day convention, and he was “thrilled” that the party had over 1,000 delegates credentialed. Registration continues through Sunday morning.

Party officials were originally expecting about 750 delegates but saw an uptick in signups in recent weeks, in part because of intense interest in the race between Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and challenger Judy Estenson for the GOP endorsement for the November election.

“The ag commissioner’s race certainly contributed to the size of the delegation,” Harms said, but he added that general excitement about the party also was a factor.

Republicans hold a supermajority in the Legislature and all of the elected statewide offices in state government, and Dalrymple scoffed at Democrats’ call for greater political balance in state government.

“When you have a strong team on the field that is doing a great job for you, what do you do? You keep your starters on the field as long as the team is doing well,” he said.

As chairman of the state Industrial Commission, Dalrymple said he’s “very proud of the job we have done regulating our energy industry,” citing efforts to curb natural gas flaring as one example.

“We have made the energy industry toe the line again and again,” he said.

Dalrymple said Democrats appear to have made a campaign theme of the idea that Republicans have neglected needs in booming western North Dakota.

“It might have been a clever strategy except for one thing: It’s not true. It isn’t even close to being true. We have done a tremendous amount for western North Dakota,” he said, listing recent investments in infrastructure, law enforcement and affordable housing.

Harms warned against Republicans’ successes breeding complacency, noting that Democrats have fielded candidates for every statewide office and view U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s election in 2012 as a revival of the state party. He said the GOP shouldn’t give up constituencies such as Native Americans and the gay and lesbian community to Democrats.

“Overconfidence in our past successes will lead us to failure,” he said.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.