Democratic U.S. House hopeful Ben Hanson had strong words for U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Saturday at a joint District 36 and 37 meeting of the Democratic-NPL Party, held at the Ramada Grand Dakota Hotel in Dickinson.
Hanson, seeking his party's nomination in 2018, described Cramer as "not engaged" and "not providing real leadership for the state."
"(North Dakotans) value someone who shows up, gets the job done, doesn't quit until it is done," he said. "Congressman Cramer right now is not doing that for us. He's not someone who shows up for his constituents. He's not someone who listens to his constituents."
Cramer allowed the Children's Health Insurance Program to lapse, Hanson said, and has failed to improve the Affordable Care Act. Cramer has also failed to pursue a seat on any committee that directly impacts North Dakota, Hanson said.
"It's absurd that our congressman did not seek a seat on the ag committee," he said, "and doesn't seek committee appointments that directly oversee federal government relations with Native Americans and tribes in our state."
Hanson also criticized Cramer for too rarely visiting the state or holding town hall meetings, and not having open offices, as well as being vague about his positions and aims.
"Our congressman can't quite decide what move would be better for his political career," he said. "He's been back and forth several times and it almost seems like he's not going to be in the spotlight if he doesn't make another controversial move."
The Democratic NPL, Hanson said, stands as a counterpoint.
"We know our neighbors who don't always vote our way share these values with us," he said, "That real leadership comes here and works for the people who elect you and keeps the most vulnerable of our population protected. We're not seeing that from Kevin Cramer."
Touring southwest North Dakota's small towns, Hanson said he is emboldened by the energy he has seen.
"Those Cass County elitists always ask me why I wind up going out to these parts of the state and I say no, there's real energy there. You've got to come out," he said. "Now, you're starting to see that."
A recent visit to Pekin, with a population of 84, attracted 20 guests to the town's community room, Hanson said.
"They were there because their rural hospital is going to close down because of the bill that Kevin Cramer voted for," he said.
Hanson said he hopes to "put an end to the life-long political career of Kevin Cramer" while fighting for "our shared North Dakota values that transcend party affiliation."
"When you don't show up for the work, North Dakotans don't approve of that no matter what their party stripe," he said.
He added, "We know we can win."