Memo to the dude who calls himself Oley Larsen. You’re a North Dakota State Senator now (as unlikely as that may seem to a lot of us). You can’t just go around making shit up and using it to justify an argument any more. People are watching, and some of them are writing down what you say and putting it in newspapers. And some of us are reading it and know it isn’t so, and we’re going to tell others. We call them “whoppers” and if you tell enough of them, pretty soon you won’t be a Senator any more. Like this one, your testimony against the anti-bullying bill in the Legislature, from the Bismarck Tribune this past Tuesday:

“BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – Minot state Sen. Oley Larsen says his Scandinavian name made him a constant target growing up . . . . ”

I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe that having the last name Larsen makes you a target for bullying. Oh, you say it was your first name? Well, let’s see, that would be Leverrett, right? That’s right, Leverrett Larsen. At least that was your name until you decided to run for the Legislature, and then you thought using a nickname like “Oley” might get you a little bit better ballot name recognition. You know, sound a little Scandinavian, go for that Scandinavian vote. That was, let’s see now, oh, yeah, just last year. In 2008 when you ran for the School Board in your home town of Surrey, you were still Leverrett Larsen. Didn’t win. Oley might work better. It did, actually. Back then (and maybe still) your e-mail address was Leverrett.larsen@sendit.nodak.edu. The white pages list you as Leverrett O. Larsen, 1208 30th Ave. SE, Minot ND 58703. The Minot Public School website lists Leverrett Larsen between Sandra Lambert and Michelle Larson on its faculty roster. No Oley there anywhere. So just cut the crapola, Leverrett. If you went by “Oley” when you were “growing up” it was of your own choosing. If that made you a “constant target” there’s something you could have done about it. Because there’s a big difference between you and someone who’s being bullied and has no recourse. I’d like to talk to a few of your classmates and get the real story. Were you really a “constant target” growing up? Well, if so, I guess, in your case, it kept you from becoming one of those “emotional marshmallows” you warned us about a few weeks ago. Hmmm. I wonder what it is that causes someone to become an intellectual marshmallow? If we could address that in the Legislature . . .

A small obituary in the Jamestown Sun this week described the political career of James Jungroth, who died Tuesday:

“He was chairman of the State Democratic-NPL Party, served in the North Dakota Legislature, past president of the North Dakota Young Democrats, was chairman of the Non-Partisan League, was chairman of Citizens Committee for Senator Quentin Burdick, served on the North Dakota Water Commission and North Dakota Water Pollution Control Board, was president of the North Dakota Wildlife Federation and ran for the U.S. Senate.”

Ran for the U.S. Senate, indeed. We note his passing because that run for the U.S. Senate  significantly changed the course of North Dakota history. In 1974, Jungroth launched an independent campaign for the U.S. Senate, competing with incumbent Senator Milton R. Young and former Governor William L. Guy. He ran on an environmental platform. The mostly-young Democrats who voted for him might have otherwise given the election to Guy, who ended up second to Young by just 177 votes out of more than 230,000 cast. Had Guy won the election, he likely would have served two or three terms. He was only 55 that year. That means that Mark Andrews would have likely stayed in the House of Representatives instead of running for, and winning, the retiring Young’s seat six years later in 1980. Which means Byron Dorgan likely would not have been elected to the Andrews’ seat in the U.S. House in 1980. Which means that Kent Conrad would likely not have been elected to Dorgan’s office as State Tax Commissioner in 1980. Which means Heidi Heitkamp might not have succeeded Conrad in 1986. Who knows how long Andrews would have stayed in the House? He was never a risk-taker, so he likely would not have challenged Quentin Burdick in 1982 (although he would have been a much better candidate than Gene Knorr), for doing so would have meant giving up his job in the House. If he had run, though, he might have won, and that would have really screwed up Kent Conrad’s future. And who knows how long Dorgan would have remained as Tax Commissioner? He likely would have either sought the Governor’s office in 1984, and probably won, which means Bud Sinner would never have been Governor, or Ed Schafer or John Hoeven after him, or else Byron would have gotten bored with state politics and gone off with his MBA in hand into the private sector and began a new career. There probably would have been no opening for Insurance Commissioner Earl Pomeroy to run for the U.S. House in 1992, which allowed his brother Glenn to step up into his job, and later lose a race for Attorney General to Wayne Stenehjem, who probably never would have become Attorney General anyway, because he could have never beaten Heidi Heitkamp. And so it goes. Well, none of that happened, because 6,679 voters chose James Jungroth over Bill Guy in 1974, and just 178 of them would have elected Guy to the U.S. Senate. Jungroth mulled all that with a smile from time to time in his later years, but he never spoke it, as far as I know. His closest supporters claim to this day that Guy wouldn’t have won anyway. I think they’re wrong. We’ll just have to keep disagreeing about that. And let Jim Jungroth keep smiling. The 1974 election aside, he was a great man. I think I’ll write more about him later.

Two weeks ago, Minot city officials were notified that a vote in the U.S.House of Representatives had rescinded $14.3 million in federal funding for a north-to-east bypass around the city, similar to the north-to-west bypass that exists now. North Dakota Republican Representative Rick Berg voted for the bill that rescinded the funds. The city of  Minot had committed significant local funds to have the engineering work done. Had the road construction funds gone away, that money would have been wasted. The bill moved to the U.S. Senate. Senator Kent Conrad showed why seniority is important in Washington. Conrad went to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood personally and asked him to commit the funds for the project before the Senate acted on the bill, and it became law, and the money really disappeared. Thanks to Conrad’s friendship with the Obama administration, LaHood had been to North Dakota earlier as Conrad’s guest, and was familiar with the project. LaHood committed the funds this week. The road will get built. It will likely be finished about the same time as the November 2012 election. When Rick Berg will be on the ballot. It remains to be seen how many votes Rick will get in Minot. We’ll be waiting to see if the bypass is officially named for Senator Kent Conrad, too.  Maybe the Minot City Council could do that the week before the November 2012 election, just to remind voters how it came to be. Who supported it and who didn’t.

Here’s the latest offering in the continuing saga of “We’re Legislators, and we’re way smarter, and we know better, than the people.” This from the Associated Press:

“BISMARCK — A proposed constitutional amendment would give the Legislature power to order a new election for initiated measures. New England Rep. Mike Schatz says voters sometimes approve initiatives that turn out to have problems. He is sponsoring an amendment that gives the Legislature authority to suggest changes to an initiative and put it back on the ballot. The amendment would allow the Legislature to put initiatives back on the ballot for another vote if lawmakers thought the original measure was flawed.”

Schatz is right. You just can’t trust the voters. I mean, look who they elected.

Democratic-NPL Party Chairman Mark Schneider threw a new wrinkle into 2012 politics this week when he announced that he had spoken with former Congressman Earl Pomeroy about coming home to run for Governor. Good for you, Mark. That’s great. I hope Earl will do it, although I think it is a long shot, given he’s only been at his new job a couple of months. But boy, it would be nice to have a candidate with his fundraising ability to compete with Governor Dalrymple. But Mark, I also hope you’ve spoken to Heidi and Ryan. You’ve read about them here before. And you should be calling Aaron and Jasper down at the USDA offices in Fargo and Bismarck, and Tracy out at Fort Lincoln–they’ve all run statewide races–and maybe even Merle and Tim and Joe and Lee, and . . . (I know, I know, you’ve got a committee, and it is doing that). The best thing that could happen to the Democratic-NPL Party is a spirited race for Governor. 2012 is a party-rebuilding year, much like 1984, when Republicans had a fairly weak incumbent Governor, and a pack of Democrat-NPL’ers set out to unseat him. Buckshot Hoffner,Walt Hjelle, Art Link and Bud Sinner canvassed the state for months, the result was a huge increase in name recognition for Sinner as he secured the nomination, and a re-spirited party, rebounding from a trouncing in 1980, swept through the Capitol claiming most of the statewide races that year. If Democrats are looking for a repeat, a healthy race for the gubernatorial nomination is the way to get it going. I’ll even sign on to be a volunteer car pool driver to the district conventions.

Footnote to the Leverrett Larsen story: Izzy Kalman, the author/creator of the website Bullies2Buddies.com, and the world’s most serious critic of the anti-bully movement, featured Senator Larsen in his blog on the Psychology Today website. He calls Larsen “The Best Friend of North Dakota Schools.” You can read it by going here, but, like swimming, you might want to wait a half hour after eating before you jump in.

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