We note the passing recently of two very conservative men: Frank Wald and Claire Blomquist. Most readers of this blog know of Frank Wald, a longtime legislator from Dickinson. Despite our political differences, Frank Wald was, I am pleased to say, a friend of mine. Our acquaintanceship goes back more than 40 years, when I first wrote a story about him in the Dickinson State College (now University) newspaper, The Western Concept, in the 1960’s. He had spoken to a campus group as an official representative of the John Birch Society. I was a student reporter. I asked him a hard question. He didn’t like it.
But we remembered each other, and when our paths crossed again in the political arena in the 1980’s, he as a Legislator and me as a political party hack, we both remembered the occasion, laughed about it, and became friends with a common interest: The good of my alma mater and his Legislative Districtâ€™s university, Dickinson State.
Frank made the newspaper a couple times last month, first when fellow legislator Bob Skarpohl prematurely announced his death and subsequent funeral on the floor of the North Dakota Legislature about a week before Frank died, and then again when Skarpohl had to write a letter to the editor of the Bismarck Tribune apologizing and offering a half-assed explanation of what had happened. Frankly, Frank deserved better. He was a good man, with a hard edge, and a soft spot in his heart for his friends. Let me give you an example.
Some years ago I was a member of the International Peace Garden board of directors. We had plans for a grand new project, and needed a small sum from the North Dakota Legislature to hire an architect. I was dispatched to the North Dakota House Appropriations Committee to ask for $100,000. I did something really stupid. Because we had plans to raise the actual construction money for the project elsewhere, I told Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wald that if he got us the planning money, we would not come back to the Legislature for any more money for that project. Frank got us the money. We hired the architect. We drew up grand plans, and then our fundraising scheme went awry, and just as the NEXT legislative session was about to begin, our board voted to ask the Legislature for another million dollars. And guess who they dispatched to Bismarck, once again, to get the money. Yep, the guy who had said he would NEVER come back to the Legislature for money for this project. Long story short, Frank, of course remembered. He rubbed it in. And then he went ahead and helped get us the money. If you go to the Peace Garden this summer, take a look around the marvelous new interpretive center and say a little thanks to that cranky, gruff western North Dakota Legislator. Who, this time, really is dead.
On the other hand, I really didn’t know Claire Blomquist, the other conservative who left us last week, but I remember him for this: he once accused Governor George Sinner of treason and of being a pagan. In the middle 1980’s Blomquist ran for Commissioner of Agriculture as an independent candidate loosely affiliated with the Lyndon LaRouche movement, the National Democratic Policy Committee (Democratic in name only). During the 1985 North Dakota Legislative session, he and a couple other LaRouchies, Anna Belle Bourgois and Gerald Kopp, circulated a document to Legislators attempting to discredit Sinner, outlining several â€œtreasonousâ€ acts. No one paid much attention to them. That was the last I heard of Blomquist, until I read his obituary in the paper last week. Bourgois and Kopp ran as independent candidates for the U.S. Senate and House against Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan in 1986. They lost. All three faded into political obscurity, although I believe Anna Belle and Kopp are still alive.