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Zaleski: The political slow dance is boring

FARGO -- I've been reporting and commenting on North Dakota politics for more than 40 years. Trends have come and gone, but the most recent iteration of political strategy is the way potential candidates announce they are going to run, or not run...

Jack Zaleski

FARGO - I’ve been reporting and commenting on North Dakota politics for more than 40 years. Trends have come and gone, but the most recent iteration of political strategy is the way potential candidates announce they are going to run, or not run. It’s become a silly game that is not-so-cleverly designed to manipulate media and stir interest among the political classes. Manipulate media? Oh, yes. Happens every day.
The latest saga in the political tease was manufactured by Fargo businessman Doug Burgum. The entrepreneur, developer and philanthropist has been flirting with running for office for a long time. He’s been up-front about his desire to be governor. He’s never committed to a candidacy, but there is little doubt he’s been plumbing public opinion (did you get the push-poll telephone question?) and talking to political power brokers in the Republican Party.
He’ll announce his intentions Thursday. If he runs, it would be big news. If he demurs, why the hell announce it? Just don’t run. Return to doing good works and put off politics for a more opportune time.
Safe bet: He’s running, but will bypass the party’s April endorsing convention and run in the June primary because smart money is on a greased-skids endorsement of popular Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. Burgum is savvy enough to know that his Republican credentials only go so far among party faithful because his enlightened views on social issues are not going to be planks in the GOP platform anytime soon.
On the sparse Democratic-NPL side of the political slate, Sarah Vogel, former state ag commissioner, appears poised to make an announcement that she will seek the party’s endorsement for governor. She also has been doing the Burgum tease, but only for the past few months. She’s raising money, has the enthusiastic support of the state’s most popular Democrat, U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, and when asked, Vogel all but confirms she’s in.
Vogel has been out of politics for about 20 years. Name recognition she had then has not necessarily carried over to now. But if (when) she does get in, she will be all in. Vogel will be a vigorous campaigner and a formidable opponent for whomever the Republicans anoint.
A caveat: Political predictions are risky. At this point, my assessment is plausible. But, in the interest of candor, I’ve made a bushel of predictions through the years, and my record suggests it would be unwise to bet the farm on this one.
Meanwhile, I wish these might-be candidates - good people all - would get on with it. In or out. Running or not running. Serious or just testing the waters. Quit the slow dance. It’s boring.
Zaleski is the editorial page editor at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, a part of Forum News Service. Email him at jzaleski@forumcomm.com .

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