Editorial: For North Dakota secretary of state, Michael Howe is the best choice
Where Howe could really shape North Dakota is on the important boards upon which the secretary of state serves.
Although North Dakota’s secretary of state is tasked with many important clerical duties, the position has the power to be so much more.
That’s why we believe the next secretary of state — the first new person to hold the office in three decades — should have a background in governing, rather than just organizational skills.
Importantly, the secretary of state’s role as a member of the North Dakota Emergency Commission, whose tasks — as determined by state law — includes work on transfers in agency budgets, oversight of contingency funds appropriated by the Legislature, taking action during imminent threat to safety of the people or imminent financial setbacks, and authorizing the disbursements of federal and other funds not appropriated by the legislative assembly.
Along with the Emergency Commission, the secretary of state sits on the North Dakota Land Board and the North Dakota Canvassing Board. So as the secretary of state does indeed oversee all sorts of administrative functions, including business filings, the position has important decision-making duties, too.
On Nov. 8, North Dakota voters will choose between Republican Michael Howe, of West Fargo, Democrat Jeffrey Powell, of Grand Forks; and Charles Tuttle, of Minot, who is running as an independent. We suggest a vote for Howe, whose legislative background and experience gives him the advantage.
Howe has spent the past six years in the state House of Representatives, where in 2021 he notably sponsored legislation to shield businesses from lawsuits. According to past reporting by Forum News Service, Howe “quickly rose in the Republican ranks to become one of the youngest members on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.” The North Dakota State University graduate manages his family’s seed operation in Casselton.
Howe vowed to Forum Communications Co. columnist Rob Port that he will be “open and transparent” as secretary of state. He told Port he voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020, but also acknowledged Joe Biden won the 2020 election and that he’s confident North Dakota’s votes in that election were counted accurately.
When he announced his candidacy, he said North Dakota’s “biggest challenges often come from politicians in D.C.” He also believes “North Dakotans should always be in charge of North Dakota’s elections.”
The secretary of state position comes with so many varied tasks, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what kind of background should be required to hold it. Considering Howe’s experience as a business manager and member of the House Appropriations Committee, we assume his clerical skills are up to the task.
Where Howe could really shape North Dakota is on those important boards.
Powell, who works at Mayville State University, has experience that could be useful in the position, too. On his campaign website, he is touted as “a skilled database manager and supervisor (who) manages state-audited budgets, supervises multiple offices and services, and understands how to ensure software portals provide the information needed to customers or clients.” And, if Powell were to win the election, his role as a Democrat in a Republican administration could free him up to become a bit of a watchdog in North Dakota government.
Powell appears to have the professional savvy to hold the office, but to us, Howe is the logical choice, considering his professional experience, his quick rise in the Legislature and his ability to work with the political party that currently holds power in Bismarck.
For secretary of state, North Dakotans should vote for Michael Howe.
The endorsement represents the opinion of Forum Communications Co. management.