SURPRISE! LOOKS LIKE KEVIN’S IN
Kevin Cramer lives, eats, breathes and sleeps politics. So you just knew it had to happen. Kevin said in the paper today he might just run for Congress in 2012.
All Kevin has ever wanted is to go to Washington, D.C. as a Senator or Congressman (I wrote about this back in February). I’ve always thought he was the most politically ambitious of any of the state’s current office-holders. But Cramer’s fellow Public Service Commission Brian Kalk has been proving me wrong.
Timeline for 2011:
January 13 – Brian Kalk announces he’s forming an exploratory committee for to run against Senator Kent Conrad for the U.S. Senate in 2012.
January 19 – Kent Conrad announces he won’t seek re-election in 2012.
February 5 – Kalk launches Facebook page and Kalk for Senate website
April 30 – Kalk formally announces for U. S. Senate
May 11 – Forum reporter Teri Finneman announces on her blog that Representative Rick Berg will give up his U.S. House seat to run for the U. S. Senate.
May 16 – Just a little over four months into his first term in the U.S. House, Berg announces he’ll run for the U.S. Senate in 2012
May 20 – Kalk announces he’s abandoning his U.S. Senate race to run for the House instead. (I’m not sure if Kevin was on vacation on May 17, 18 and 19, or what, but he missed his chance to get into the House race, because Kalk didn’t waste any time making his move away from a contest with Berg for the Senate nomination. On his website, in a video posted May 27, Kalk says “Once it became apparent that Congressman Berg was getting into the (Senate) race, I had a groundswell of grass roots supporters urging me to consider switching to the Congressional race. And so I’ve always prided myself on listening to the grass roots (you can gag here if you want to) and I really, I could see we both have very passionate supporters, so I could see a highly contested race (yeah, right), and I was not willing to risk a divided party in the fall . . .”)
Now it’s October, just a few months before the Republican State Convention, and Cramer has to make his move if he’s going to. And it looks like he’s going to. In today’s Bismarck Tribune, Cramer says the odds are 50-50 that he’ll challenge Kalk and Betty Grande (my choice, incidentally—I am thinking about sending her money) for the nomination, in spite of the fact it looks pretty unseemly that two of the three Public Service Commissioners are going after the same job. One wonders who’s going to be around doing the work of the Public Service Commission while two-thirds of its members are out campaigning. And one also wonders what the atmosphere is going to be like at the PSC office. Don’t suppose the two of them will be doing much traveling together.
Bottom line is, you’ve got two guys who ran for, and were elected to, the Public Service Commission, and now neither one of the wants to complete his term. One of these days that ambition and opportunism is going to catch up with the Republican Party.
LOOKS LIKE CORY’S OUT
Kudos to Cory Fong, by the way. His much-rumored campaign for Congress has been set on the back burner, much to the disappointment of a lot of moderate Republicans not excited about the three conservatives likely to be in the race, Kalk, Cramer and Betty Grande. Cory’s going to finish his term. But his time will come. The Tax Commissioner’s office has been a real stepping stone, unlike the PSC (the only Public Service Commissioner I can think of who ever got elected to anything else is Dale Sandstrom, who sits on the North Dakota Supreme Court). In fact, if Heidi Heitkamp finally decides to run for the U.S. Senate, that would mean that every North Dakota Tax Commissioner since 1966 except Bob Hanson has run for Federal office. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, obviously, got elected. Rick Clayburgh tried and failed against Earl Pomeroy. Don’t bet against Cory Fong in the future, though.
GOING FOR ALL THE DOUGH
Speaking of Cory Fong, what’s up with he and Sen. Dwight Cook weighing in on the effort to collect sales taxes from Internet companies sending stuff to North Dakota? Like we have a money shortage here these days? Hey, guys, do you want ALL the money?
THE CASE FOR SINGLE-MEMBER HOUSE DISTRICTS
Here’s my suggestion to the Legislative Redistricting Committee, which meets in a couple weeks to draw new District lines. They’ll never listen to me, but I think it’s the solution to the ever-growing size of rural legislative districts in North Dakota. I’d cut the number of Senate Districts to 40, from the current 47. 40 is plenty of Senators. The Senate Districts would be bigger than they are now, but that problem gets solved by creating single-member House Districts. You do that by cutting each Senate District in half and electing one House member from each geographical half of the district. In reality, this creates 80 House Districts, which brings representation much closer to home in rural areas than now. House members represent about 14,000 people under the current scenario of 47 districts. With 80 House members representing single-member districts, each would represent about 8,500. Without creating more government, which the conservatives are whining about right now. In fact, according to Legislative Council estimates, it would save about $7 million of taxpayers‘ dollars. Win-win.
WHO’S REPRESENTING THE NEWCOMERS?
There’s one more issue the Legislature is going to have to deal with relative to reapportionment of Legislative Districts: the huge increase in population in western North Dakota. The federal census for North Dakota, done in 2010, was outdated the day it was completed. There are probably 10 or 20 or 30 thousand more people out west than there were a year and a half ago, and they are being under-represented to the point where somebody is probably going to bring a lawsuit if the Legislature doesn’t deal with the problem. And that’ll be a mess. I’m old enough to remember the endless lawsuits of the 1960’s and 1970’s over reapportionment. It took most of a decade to finally get it right. So they might as well address it right now.