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Plain Talk: The question of Rep. Rick Becker's medical license; a Supreme Court candidate talks campaign

Supreme Court Justice Daniel Crothers talks about his re-election campaign, and a discussion of the controversy around the medical license of politician who has been outspoken about the COVID-19 pandemic in ways that aren't sitting well with his colleagues.

North Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerald W. VandeWalle, from left, Justices Lisa Fair McEvers, Carol Ronning Kapsner, Dale V. Sandstorm and Daniel J. Crothers take questions from juniors and seniors following a hearing Monday, April 4, 2016, at Fargo South High School.Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
North Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerald W. VandeWalle, from left, Justices Lisa Fair McEvers, Carol Ronning Kapsner, Dale Sandstrom and Daniel J. Crothers take questions from juniors and seniors following a hearing Monday, April 4, 2016, at Fargo South High School.
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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MINOT, N.D. — Why are so many judicial races in North Dakota not competitive? And not because the winning candidates dominate, but because they're usually running unopposed?

Part of the problem is the pay, Justice Daniel Crothers said on this episode of Plain Talk. Crothers has served on the North Dakota Supreme Court since he was appointed in 2005. He ran for election to the unexpired four-year term he was appointed to fill, and for re-election to a new term in 2012, and now he's running for another decade-long term on the 2022 ballot.

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For all the Sturm und Drang from lawmakers over Burgum supposedly violating the "separation of powers" by meddling in legislative races, they couldn't muster enough votes to even put some reporting requirements on committees like Burgum during their session last year.

With history as our guide, he probably won't have an opponent. Since 1990 there have been just five competitive Supreme Court races on the statewide ballot.

Crothers says that lawyers make a lot of money but judges, comparatively, do not. North Dakota already has a relatively small legal community, and finding people in that community who want to abandon their private practice — and its pay — to become a judge is difficult.

Crothers also talked about the ongoing efforts to get court records online, what it's like to campaign for an office like Supreme Court Justice, and the process behind how the state Supreme Court works.

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Also on this episode, co-host Chad Oban and I talk about the calls to pull the medical license of state Rep. Rick Becker. Becker works as a plastic surgeon outside of his political career, and some of his fellow doctors find his comments about COVID-19 and treatments for it to be unethical . They're calling for him to either stop these statements or face discipline.

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Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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