President Clinton. Governor Stenehjem.

Two comments on the state of politics today:

  1. John Hoeven lied.
  2. Start practicing now, so you are ready, in 2017, to say “Governor Stenehjem” and “President Clinton.”

First John Hoeven. I am glad that it took me a few days to get around to writing this, because last week I was walking through a dusty parking lot in the Bad Lands and the Senator, who I actually like a lot, came barreling up to me in a black pickup, and then stopped, with his window down, and asked “Did you think I was going to run you down?” We laughed and visited for a  minute. Given another opportunity, after he reads this . . .

What he lied about was, upon learning that Jack Dalrymple is not going to run for Governor again, he said that Dalrymple “has earned the appreciation and respect of all North Dakotans.”

That’s a bunch of B.S. Not mine. I neither respect nor appreciate Jack Dalrymple and what he has done. Neither do thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of others who have struggled with the dramatic effects of the oil boom that could have been avoided if we had had a Governor who really cared about the state and its people, and not just about the almighty dollar.

Jack Dalrymple sold out our state to the oil industry, and polluted the State Capitol with regulators who were told to clear a path for the wholesale destruction of western North Dakota. And he got the job done.

Environmentally, Jack Dalrymple will go down in history as the worst North Dakota Governor ever. Despite an industry slowdown in the face of low oil prices, the State Health Department reports there were almost 1,500 spills of oil and saltwater in western North Dakota since September 1 of 2014. About four, somewhere in the oil patch, every day, some big, some small, but all requiring that gooey oil or poisonous brine or both have to be cleaned up from North Dakota’s earth and water. Wetlands, home to fish and birds and four-footed critters, have been polluted, fish are dying, poison and raw sewage from the city of Williston are going into the reaches of the Missouri River.

Sociologically, the damage is worse. Lack of teachers and day care workers, because they cannot afford the rent on $2,500 a month apartments. Spouse abuse and child abuse reports in the paper every day. Rapes, robberies, murders and traffic fatalities in numbers we’ve never seen before. If Donald Trump wants to build a wall to keep out rapists, he should build it around North Dakota. Cities and counties can’t build jails fast enough to keep up with the incoming traffic from the courtrooms. And they’re building them at local taxpayers’ expense, taxpayers who had no say in how an industry full of bad guys was going to take over their communities and endanger their lives.

Highways and other infrastructure are so stressed that the Legislature had to literally throw a billion dollars into the air over western North Dakota for cities, counties and the state DOT to scramble for, to try to fix things to accommodate as many as a hundred thousand new people in just a few short years’ time.

If I had to pick just one word to define Jack Dalrymple’s time as Governor, it would be chaos. Unregulated and unrestricted chaos.

And much of it could have been avoided if Dalrymple had said, like Art Link did before him, “We welcome this new industry to our state, and we’re going to let grow at a pace we can deal with.”

Instead, oil industry contributions now approaching a million dollars into Dalrymple’s campaign coffers bought all the permits necessary to create the most chaotic scene our state has ever faced. He was still raising money from the industry in 2014, two years after his last election and two years before his next, and I’m betting when he files a campaign disclosure report next January we’ll see that those checks kept coming in right through this year.

No, sir, Senator Hoeven, count me among those who have no respect and no appreciation for this Governor.

Well, enough of that. Jack’s not running. Who is? My friend Jeff and I were out in the boat the other day when Jack’s announcement came, so we started talking about it. What we decided was, it would be easier to compile a list of people who SHOULD NOT run for Governor. We both shouted “Dwight Kiefert” at the same time. Remember him, the Republican legislator from Valley City who refused to let a Muslim lead a prayer in the North Dakota House of Representatives, and then, when the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is the law of the land, wrote on his Facebook page  “Yea, gay marriage is legal in all 50 states. Great victory for the METALLY (sic) ILL!!!!!” Okay, so he’s out. Who else?

Well, probably Margaret Sitte and Betty Grande, two former Legislators who could only find one issue—abortion—to deal with in their last terms in the Legislature two years ago. They won’t be back anywhere, anytime soon. If the party is looking for someone to create a daily flashpoint, they’d choose House Majority Leader Al Carlson, but I don‘t think they want that, so Al probably shouldn’t run. Is Leon Mallberg dead? If not, he probably shouldn’t run.

Ryan Rauschenberger and Kirsten Baesler have been to one too many parties, and they’re going to have to fight to just  retain the jobs they have now, so count them out.

Then there’s the strange case of Drew Wrigley, the Lieutenant Governor and, many thought, heir apparent to the office. Wrigley has gotten himself tangled up in a messy personal situation that probably precludes his nomination by a party looking always for candidates with high moral standards. The story of Wrigley’s indiscretions has spread across the state like wildfire in the days since Dalrymple’s announcement, and it’s being spread by people with titles in the party’s hierarchy, so it seems to have legs. It will be interesting to see how it plays out in the days and weeks to come, but it has to come as a big disappointment to Dalrymple and many party leaders.

It was Dalrymple who plucked Wrigley from his job as a lawyer for Blue Cross Blue Shield, following a stint as the state’s U.S. Attorney, and seemingly anointed him as the future of the party. He’s young (50), handsome, articulate and well-met, and would seemingly have a bright future with Dalrymple’s departure. But rumors and whisper campaigns can take a toll among convention delegates, especially if they are true, and it appears that prospective delegates will have to settle for a proven winner of a bit older rank, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, whose age has the first number 6.

But Stenehjem, who seemingly would have a lock on the nomination if he wants it, may not be the favorite of the conservative wing of the party, or of the oil industry, both of which wield strong influence in North Dakota’s Republican Party. Stenehjem angered the oil boys with his “Extraordinary Places” proposal last year, an attempt to set aside some areas of the state as oil well-free zones. It was just that—an attempt—and it has failed miserably, from what I can see. Still, it may have been viewed by the industry as a sign Stenehjem has a bit of a green streak, and they don’t want any of that in the man who hires regulators and issues permits.

Conservatives could be looking for an alternative to Stenehjem, confident in the fact that even if they bypass a proven vote-getter, the Democratic-NPL Party is in such a shambles that they could win the office even without their best vote-getter on the ticket. Senators David Hogue and Oley Larson from Minot and Representatives Jim Kasper from Fargo and Mike Nathe of Bismarck come to mind.

And the wild card is Fargo’s Doug Burgum, who sold his software company to Microsoft for many millions and has been doing good works with his family foundation and real estate company. He’s already a member of the Roughrider Hall of Fame, the state’s highest honor, and is a favorite of both parties. But he’s no conservative, and has never really been interested in elective office. Indeed he told me one time, years ago, he keeps his hair a bit on the long side to keep the Republicans from his door. But times change, he’s a restless soul, and he’s hinted he might be interested.

A race between he and Stenehjem would be fun to watch, but Stenehjem is no sure bet to make the race either, from what I can tell, although he’s probably more likely with Wrigley out of the way. He’s got the best job in the state for a lawyer. He makes more money than the Governor, so he’d have to take a pay cut. And being Governor is a lot more work than being Attorney General. AG’s usually get to go home at night. Not always so with so Governors.

His friends tell me that his wife Beth is probably not keen on being in the spotlight as First Lady, but her involvement in a number of charitable causes could benefit from the bully pulpit of being First Lady.

Still, the smart money at this point would be Governor Stenehjem.

I’ll talk about the Democrats one of these days. At this point, I’ll just stick with former Senator Hillary Clinton as our next president. I learned long ago never to bet against a Clinton. She’s getting her own personal damaging issues out of the way early—Benghazi and e-mail servers will be distant memories a year from now—and she’ll choose a vice president candidate to shore up any shortcomings in her ability to govern. And the Republicans will have self-destructed by mid-March, is my guess, so her victory will be easier than we expect right now.

So start practicing: President Clinton. Governor Stenehjem. President Clinton. Governor Stenehjem. Say them over and over. Get used to them.

FOOTNOTE: One of my friends said the other day, when Dalrymple announced his decision, “Good, maybe we’ll get a Governor whose name we can spell.” Sorry. It’s Stenehjem. Practice spelling that for a while.

17 thoughts on “President Clinton. Governor Stenehjem.

  1. I have been out to western ND this summer with my camera to document some of the many brine and oil spills that have occurred over the last year as well as the rusting oil infrastructure that the companies should have removed long ago.
    I haven’t posted the photos I took, but if I do they will go into a gallery entitled: The Governor’s Environmental Legacy, but then again it appears that most North Dakotan’s simply don’t care what happens to the prairies and wetlands in the western part of our state.


  2. Governor Stenehjem for sure. Your other prediction proves that even at the top levels of punditry the wish is often the father of the thought. Be well and practice spelling Fiorina.


    1. Well, I disagree, Joel. The fact that the Lieutenant Governor had an affair is not a news story in in itself. Politicians do that all the time. But the fact that the affair changed the dynamic of the governor’s race is a news story. Republicans across the state have been talking about this and spreading the story since Dalrymple announced. Undoubtedly, many of those who spread the story are Stenehjem supporters, but I doubt Wayne had any part in it. Still, though, the race for the Republican nomination for Governor has changed, and that is a legitimate news story.


  3. A couple of items
    – In the Wrigley new release regarding his admitting the affair there was concern expressed for Wrigley’s family, career, and future political career, but no concern expressed for the other family!
    – What we have now in western North Dakota is now the new normal. Long gone is the western North Dakota we once knew! If we think the environmental issues are bad now what will it look like if the oil price stays depressed for years and we add abandoned public and private facilities to the mix.


  4. This is typical Democratic Sleaze. You can attack a family with three young children and bring a painful situation out in the open BUT the Clinton years just continue with their rot and filth. Lies, Misconduct, Fabrications and on and on and on. Drew Wrigley admitted his misconduct and he and his family are dealing with it, BUT “Hail the almighty Clintons”… sick, unnerving and disturbing.


    1. According to Cheryl it’s all about politics. CAN’T. MAKE. IT. UP. Oh your buddy Drew is the sleazeball who cheated Cheryl. Get a clue before you post.


  5. I can only hope that Stenehjem won’t be gov. In my personal opinion he has done a great job of wasting money on frivolous lawsuits against the feds. Also, he and his office are great at saying one thing and doing another. I asked for help to have his office intervene and investigate a pharmacy and hospital for dispensing fraudulent medications. He claims they have nothing to do with that, even though he stars in a commercial for responsible medication disposal and has stated numerous times prescription drug abuse is a large problem. He , like other state agencies would rather bury the issue. Heaven forbid a catholic hospital do something wrong.


  6. Jim, that is a great article exposing Wrigley for the dishonest sleaze that he is. Good work. It is obvious from the right wingers commenting on here that it stung. The Republicans ought to be stung for letting North Dakota be the oil industries whore.


  7. Lots of food for thought. I had wondered why regulation of this oil boom seems so minimal compared to the past. So many variables are different, including fracking, rail transport of oil, the companies doing the drilling. I would also like to know how the state’s taxation of oil revenue has changed under Gov. Dalrymple. Was that approved by the Legislature? Also, which current state legislators and elected officials, Republicans and Democrats, received campaign contributions from oil companies and associated businesses?
    As for the lieutenant governor, my sympathies go to his family regarding his extramarital affair. Questions I would ask if I were a reporter would attempt to discern the man’s character. How was the cheating discovered? Duration of the affair? Have there been other affairs? Voters will get the quality of elected officials they demand.


  8. I have recently gained the ability to once again, participate. I has been a worthwhile activity for me. I have read some conservative blogs and have now returned to “the other side”, just for the contrast. It is my hope that my comments here will have some thought-provoking reading.

    For the most part, I am in agreement with you regarding “Jack”. I am not sure if he is the worst Governor in state history but he is in the running.

    Jack and his boys really did sell our the state to oil interests—-they are always willing to pay those who extend their hands—–republican or democrat.

    Another take on this is that Jack has successfully expanded government here. I hold that the Guy machine(1960-1985) established modern government here in ND. It worked fairly well. Those who administrated this expansion were reasonably competent—-they could here the citizen and seemed to work on their behalf.

    With the advent of Eddie, that all began to change. It coincided with the demise of the Democratic party. Just too much Guy and little else. Eddie began filling state government with his boys and the expansion is ongoing. The problem has been that the boys and girls, simply are bureaucrats—they have a distance between them and us and they are increasingly unaccountable.

    Perhaps that is what would have happened if the Guy bunch had continued. We will never know. At this point in time, state government is out of control It is one of the worst state bureaucracies in the nation. And it is getting worse.

    The industrial side is pure business interests—and that is the result of peddling influence. The other parts—corrections, the AG, human services are just completely mismanaged. The only place that looks sort of OK is the highway department and that relies on Federal money. It is also still in the hands of those who were there back to the 50’s with Hjelle being one of the best anywhere. A really good guy.

    The AG will most likely be our next Gov. as not much Democratic opposition is available. And not much in sight. The party needs to rethink and reinvent itself minus the Guy image and those still in some position of power are not willing to let go yet.

    I predict that the Republicans will follow the same path. Soon I hope. This style of government is not acceptable to me. They only answer to Jack and his boys and they dance to the H. Hamm tune. On a daily basis. Just watch the gestures of Helm’s and argue that point.

    One of the really sad things here is the increasing dependence on the Federal government. Not good for liberty. The low price of oil will have a devastating effect on ND. We may not get it like we have never got what the Ag policy has done to us for over 60 years. Our system is always fragile and needs to be nurtured. I hope to see some of that soon.


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