Port: Pro golfer Amy Olson elected district chair for the North Dakota Republican Party
Having just qualified for the U.S. Open, to be played in July in Pebble Beach, golfer Amy Olson opens up about her politics, and what inspired her to seek a leadership position in the NDGOP.
MINOT, N.D. — Amy Olson is a professional golfer from Fargo, and, while six months pregnant, just qualified to play in the U.S. Open in July to be played at the famed Pebble Beach golf course.
But earlier this month, Olson was also elected to be the chair of the Republican Party in District 27, a Fargo-area jurisdiction covering the southern edge of the city and rural areas to the south.
"There are two things I was told when I turned professional as an athlete that you shouldn't talk about," Olson told me. "One was politics; the other was religion. I don't follow the rules very well, apparently."
It's somewhat rare for professional athletes and celebrities to be open about their politics. If they're Republicans, anyway. It's even more unusual to take a leadership position within a political party.
What prompted Olson to want to get involved?
"I would say the major motivating factor for me was living through COVID. A big part of it for me was I played, and the LPGA competed, throughout 2020 and 2021," she told me, adding that they did take a five-month break.
"We started traveling in July of 2020. All of the COVID mandates and lockdowns I got to live through, and I got to see how different states reacted to it. Certain states protected individual liberty. Certain states went into safety over liberty mode."
"That helped me to realize how important our state and local laws are. If we are going to live under them we local citizens have to be a part of making those laws," she continued.
She says she wasn't happy about how North Dakota handled the pandemic under Gov. Doug Burgum.
"Overall, I was disappointed. There were a number of areas where there was government overreach into individual rights," she said, noting that churches and businesses were prohibited from operating "as they see fit."
"The arbitrary designation of essential versus inessential really hurt a lot of small businesses in our state."
Olson chose to get involved in NDGOP at a time when the party is sundered by ideological differences. Traditional conservatives and Republicans who have guided the party to 30 years of success are fighting against Trump-era populist and culture warriors who want to take over.
"There obviously is a divide," Olson told me when I asked about the faction in her party. "What we have to get back to is what our platform stands for. We have a lot of people who identify as Republicans, and there's not as much discussion about the issues. I really believe that more unites us than divides us, but I see a lot of people who are loyal to a person instead of principles."
Olson was generally supportive of the Republican-controlled Legislature's recent push, during their just-completed session, to implement regulations about pronouns and transgender students and books.
"I think these are issues we haven't had to deal with before because these things haven't been pushed at us as citizens. I understand there are a lot of people who want to avoid these issues or feel like they're divisive, but they affect human life," she said.
"As a professional female athlete, the trans issue affects my daily life. We've had to wrestle through a lot of issues on the LPGA board. The transgender issue was brought up frequently. We, as an organization, were very, very impacted by what our federal and state laws say. So it's important to have legislation around those issues in order to protect individual freedom again."
I asked Olson how she reconciles these new laws with the general conservative preference for limited government and individual liberty.
"I know there are a lot of conflict issues in there," she responded. "You'll say that the trans person has individual liberty. But what about the parents? There are these conflicting issues of liberty, and it has to be deliberated about. There isn't an easy answer, but we can't void them. I think that's what we're seeing in our legislature. We're trying to wrestle through them because we can't ignore them."
Olson says she supports the removal of "sexually explicit" books from libraries.
"If we're going to talk about sex, why can't it be from a biological standpoint? I feel from my understanding these issues about what can be presented or what can be available for kids in libraries, these are not book bans. If parents want children to have access to certain books, they can go buy them," she said.
"Why are public libraries with public monies being used to advance an agenda?" she added.
Does Olson have political ambitions beyond chairing the District 27 NDGOP? "None at all. In fact, I've always wanted to stay out of politics," she said, though as she kept speaking, she did leave the door open a crack.
"Long term, I don't know what I'll end up doing. I don't even really want this position, but I felt I was the best alternative
at this point, and I could do good," she said.
Next month the NDGOP's state committee, on which Olson has a seat by dint of her chair position, will hold a reorganization meeting and elect new leadership for the party. The current chair, Perrie Schafer, will almost certainly face a challenger from the culture war faction, though it's unclear who that will be.
Sandra Sanford, the wife of former Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, is one possibility.
Olson says she isn't ready to say who she'll support as she doesn't know yet who all the candidates are.
"That's going to be important to have those conversations," she said.