Port: Kylie Oversen gives herself a trophy

"Too often, we only look to electoral results to measure the 'success' in politics," she wrote in a post on Medium. "Those of us who do this work, though, understand that success means many different things."

PHOTO: ND Democratic-NPL 2018 State Convention
North Dakota Democratic Party Chairwoman Kylie Oversen. Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald

MINOT, N.D. — Most of you probably don't care about who chairs the political parties.

They are positions that matter, to be sure. A party chair is in charge of important things, like coordinating fundraising, hiring staff, settling intraparty disputes, recruiting candidates, and messaging. Still, party chairs tend to fly under the radar.

In baseball, it's said that the best umpire is the one you never hear about, and that's probably true of party chairs too. If they're doing their jobs well, they don't get a lot of attention.

Kylie Oversen , outgoing chair of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL, got a lot of attention. At least by North Dakota political standards.


Under six years of her hapless leadership, Oversen, whose mother once got my column pulled from a western newspaper , has led the Democratic-NPL down a rabbit hole.

Granted, the party wasn't in great shape when she took over, but she somehow took a rock-bottom, there's-nowhere-to-go-but-up situation and found a way to plumb deeper depths of incompetence.

When Oversen took control of the party, Democrats held 23 seats in the state House of Representatives and 15 in the Senate. That minority stake has shrunk. After losing a third of the seats it held in the House and more than half in the Senate, the party controls just 21 seats in both chambers combined.

Among the losses was Overson herself, who saw her tenure representing District 42 in the House ended in 2016.

Democrats held no statewide offices when Oversen started, and that hasn't changed despite the departure of several incumbents on her watch. The North Dakota Republican Party has elected a new governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, auditor and insurance commissioner on Oversen's watch, all with little resistance from the Democratic challengers.

Oversen was a loser here, too. She ran for tax commissioner in 2018 and lost by 17 percentage points against Republican incumbent Ryan Rauschenberger after a campaign in which she attacked his struggles with alcohol addiction .

Perhaps the most painful loss for the Democrats was the U.S. Senate seat previously held by Heidi Heitkamp (Oversen's mentor, ironically enough), which Republican Kevin Cramer won in 2018.


Democrats had controlled that seat since the Eisenhower administration.

How did Oversen, a part-time CBD oils saleswoman , explain all of this in her self-aggrandizing exit message?

By suggesting that winning elections gets too much attention in politics.

"Too often, we only look to electoral results to measure the 'success' in politics," she wrote in a post on Medium . "Those of us who do this work, though, understand that success means many different things."

The political world is a place where many people say many stupid things every day. In my nearly two decades of writing about politics, those sentences add up to one of the stupidest things I've ever read, up to and including the scare quotes around "success."

The ultimate measure of success in politics is, of course, implementing your preferred policy.

Only, here's the thing: You don't get to make policy unless you get elected.

You can't do the former if the latter doesn't happen.


In her post , Oversen gives us a bulleted list of what she considers to be her accomplishments as party chair. It's a circus of pablum that includes three different ways of saying "I increased diversity," excludes her financial support for a man accused of an ax-attack on Republican Sen. John Hoeven's office , and ends with this space-filler: "So much more that is difficult to quantify or qualify."

Oversen has had so much success it's "difficult to quantify," which is a thing you say when you haven't actually been that successful.

Don't get me wrong. Diversity is great. Political movements win through addition, not subtraction. But what's the point of a diverse political party that doesn't win elections?

There isn't one.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Correction 1 p.m.: This post has been updated with the correct office and year that Kylie Oversen ran in North Dakota.

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 Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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