Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Dorgan speaks about Democrats' challenges at GF fundraiser

A Democratic fundraiser in Grand Forks featured special guest Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who used the occasion to tell stories from his decades-long political career but not a mention of his plans after his Senate term is over.

U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan
U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan shares a laugh with Paul Bjorneby on Thursday at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner sponsored by the District 17 Democrats in Grand Forks. Herald photo by Eric Hylden.

A Democratic fundraiser in Grand Forks featured special guest Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who used the occasion to tell stories from his decades-long political career but not a mention of his plans after his Senate term is over.

The annual District 17 Jefferson-Jackson fundraiser Thursday night brought about 100 local Democrats and politicians together to salute Dorgan, who announced in January that he is not seeking re-election this year.

State Rep. Louise Potter,

D-Grand Forks, introduced Dorgan by listing off things he has done for Grand Forks: his help in securing federal funding to recover from the 1997 flood, the role he played in establishing the Red River Valley Research Corridor, his work on farming issues and his efforts to secure a new mission for Grand Forks Air Force Base.

"I could go on and on, but I'm not going to," Potter said.


While Dorgan didn't directly mention that he will not be campaigning for the Senate this year, his speech largely consisted of personal stories that provided a broad look at his political career and a message about the state of American politics.

"I have run in 12 statewide elections," he began. "You can imagine the miles I have on me."

Modern times

Dorgan spoke of a 1993 economic program proposed by President Bill Clinton that narrowly passed Congress. He said Republicans claimed it would "ruin our country," but it laid the groundwork for the country's first budget surplus in three decades.

"A fair number of my Democratic colleagues lost their office in the 1994 election because they cast that one vote," he said. "They were proud to do it because this country needed that to happen."

That surplus was inherited by President George W. Bush, Dorgan continued, but increased spending and large tax cuts led to a recession that continues today. The story served as a defense of current President Barack Obama in some ways, especially his efforts since coming into office to get the country out of the recession.

"If he had done nothing but sleep for 10 months, he would have had a $1.3 trillion budget deficit," he said. "That's what he was left."

Dorgan said the country is just beginning to recover, but pointed out people who preach a "brand of negative hatred" come up during America's tough times and will always exist.


He used a personal story from his childhood to make an analogy to today's "complainers" that criticize government action but don't get involved. Dorgan said three men in his hometown drank and played cards every day "and complained about everything in my hometown" while everyone else worked to make things better.

"And that's the way it is in this city of Grand Forks, it's the way it is in this country," he said. "The complainers are never going to build anything for this country's future. All they're going to do is complain."

Dorgan also defended Democrats, explaining how he answered a high school student's recent question on why he was a member of the party. He said over the last century, Democrats "took up the cause" whenever people's rights were suppressed.

He said it's important for Democrats to stay proud of their party as "people take to the streets" and question whether the government is capable of successfully running programs.

"Well, you know what? I'm sick and tired of hearing that stuff," Dorgan said. "Maybe those folks that go to those rallies should have stood perhaps last spring right near the floodwall here in Grand Forks and asked the question: Are people working together and a government that cares to build a project to protect people, does that matter in the future of Grand Forks and the people that live here? I believe it does."

The only mention of his approaching Senate retirement came after he finished the speech. After being presented with a gift box from Widman's Candy Shop, someone in the crowd yelled, "We'll give you more chippers" if he would run again.

Dorgan said he received a call from a 92-year-old friend shortly after his announcement that he would not run in 2010. He did his best impersonation of the man's voice, quoting him as asking, "What in the hell are you doing?"

Dorgan said he would continue to be involved with North Dakota Democrats' ampaigns this year and then left to make an appearance in Fargo.


Johnson reports on local politics. Reach him at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

What To Read Next
Get Local