MINOT, N.D. — Last week I wrote a column Sen. Jason Heitkamp, a Republican from Wahpeton representing District 26 in Bismarck.
Heitkamp called my editor about that column, complaining that I had associated him with the secretive Bastiat Caucus of very Trump-aligned Republican lawmakers. Heitkamp told my editor he doesn't want to be associated with the Bastiat Caucus because he's not a member and nobody wants to vote for them.
I updated my column to reflect Heitkamp's preference not to be associated with the Bastiat Caucus, though I have internal emails sent to Caucus members during the legislative session earlier this year that include Heitkamp's name. For a time, at least, the Bastiats clearly considered him a member.
I was thinking about Sen. Heitkamp's decision to distance himself from the Bastiats as I was attempting, unsuccessfully, to reach him about a theft charge against him from Bottineau County (he also told my editor that he immediately ignores my calls when I dial him).
According to the Summons and Complaint, Heitkamp has been charged with misdemeanor theft and is scheduled to appear before the district court at 10 a.m. Nov. 2.
Heitkamp is, again, refusing to take my calls, but he did tell the Associated Press that he's innocent of the charge against him and believes they're related to a visit he paid to an ex-girlfriend's home in Bottineau recently to retrieve what he claims are his personal items.
Bottineau County prosecutor Seymour Jordan wasn't immediately available for comment.
Sen. Heitkamp is, of course, innocent until proven guilty of the theft charges against him.
What interests me, in the here and now, is how this lawmaker, who was clearly involved to some extent with the Bastiat Caucus earlier this year, no longer wants to be involved with that group.
The Bastiats, though reticent to release the names of their members, have claimed in the past to be larger than the Democratic-NPL caucus in the Legislature. They've posed headaches to mainstream members of the NDGOP. Bastiat-aligned activists made a concerted, if largely unsuccessful, effort to take over leadership positions in the NDGOP's local district organizations this spring. They've pushed censor resolutions for sitting NDGOP lawmakers. They're backing recall campaigns for Rep. Dwight Kiefert (R-Valley City) and Gov. Doug Burgum, as well as a statewide petition for term limits.
State party officials are so worried about the potential for Bastiat activists booing statewide elected Republicans like Burgum that they may not even hold an endorsing convention in the coming election cycle.
The perception of the Bastiats from many mainstream Republicans in the state is that they're a threat to the stability of long-standing GOP leadership in North Dakota.
Now we have confirmation of that trend as Sen. Heitkamp, who finds himself in some turbulent waters just now, says he doesn't want to be associated with the Bastiats.
We live in a time where social media and other tools allow any ardent political movement to punch above its weight in the public's consciousness. We often end up talking about people or topics that aren't necessarily the most important, but maybe just the most inflammatory on Facebook.
Even given that, it seemed the Bastiats were poised to upend the NDGOP and the politics of North Dakota which it dominates.
Now, it kind of seems like they're hitting their high water mark.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.