FARGO -- U.S. House candidate Kevin Cramer isn't very popular with many in the North Dakota Republican Party establishment since revealing Thursday he'll bypass the state nominating convention and compete directly in the June 12 primary.
Several district chairmen within the GOP expressed various degrees of frustration and accused Cramer of insulting the traditional selection process.
Republicans' and Democrats' district organizations send delegates to attend the parties' state conventions in March and to help determine who the endorsed candidates are.
"His decision weakens the endorsement process and is a thumb to the eye of each delegate that is willing to take the time to attend the convention," said District 20 Republican Chairman Larry O'Brien of Mayville.
Receiving the party endorsement guarantees a candidate a place on the June primary ballot.
Candidates can contest the endorsement and still compete in the primary, but whoever wins that battle is the official party candidate eligible to compete in the general election.
It's rare in North Dakota for well-known candidates to abandon that path.
Cramer, a former party chairman, has participated in the GOP convention process seven times as a candidate: in his three previous attempts to win North Dakota's U.S. House seat and in two successful elections to the state Public Service Commission, a seat he still holds.
"I am disappointed that Kevin has opted out of the party process that put him in his office," said District 27 Republican Chairman Paul Owens of Fargo. "The endorsement process is in place to show who is the best candidate. If a candidate cannot convince their party they are the top choice, their chances of succeeding in the general election are not good."
Cramer said he knows his decision might not be welcomed by the party base, but added he expects rank-and-file Republicans will support his move.
"In terms of hard feelings, I understand it, but my conviction to the party doesn't change," Cramer said. "Loyalty to a political party is not measured by a commitment to the process, but rather your commitment to principle."
GOP Chairman Stan Stein said he was "surprised and disappointed ... but this does not change our operations for the convention."
He said the convention's endorsed candidate will receive the full backing of the state Republican Party.
"We will strongly unite behind the endorsed candidate that our delegates choose," Stein said.