MINOT, N.D. — Rep. Dwight Kiefert of Valley City has represented District 24 in the North Dakota House of Representatives since 2013.
Earlier this year he was one of several lawmakers around the state censured over this support for the expulsion of former lawmaker Luke Simons of Dickinson after I revealed a years-long pattern of harassment of women working in and around the Legislature.
The local organizer of Kiefert's censure was a man named Shane Anderson, the treasurer of the District 24 NDGOP.
"The North Dakota District 24 Republicans respectfully request that Representative Dwight Kiefert resign from his position as representative of District 24 for failing to uphold the adopted legislative rules of procedure, the 2020 North Dakota Republican Platform, the constitution of North Dakota, and the constitution of the United States, for supporting the first ever in the nation expulsion of a fellow legislator without due process, and for failing to exercise the integrity and diligence expected when voting and representing District 24 Republic," the censure resolution, which passed in a disputed voice vote, states.
Kiefert hasn't resigned, and now Anderson is the chairman of a recall campaign aimed at removing the incumbent from office.
Secretary of State Al Jaeger's office has approved the format of a recall petition for Kiefert. The campaign will have to collect at least 1,764 signatures to put Kiefert on the ballot, and they have one calendar year from July 19 to collect them.
It's worth noting that Kiefert, being from an even-numbered district, isn't on the ballot next year. He was just re-elected to another four-year term in 2020. He was the top vote-getter in the four-way race.
To put the signature requirement into perspective, Kiefert received 3,733 votes in 2020 out of a total of 12,279 casts.
"I just can't believe standing up for this cause," Kiefert said. "When you've got somebody in the Legislature with a documented history of misconduct for four years, and they want to put up a banner for him, go for it. What about the victims?"
"To stand up for somebody for somebody who has a record of misconduct, I mean good luck with that," Kiefert continued. "I'm not really worried about it. When you vote against somebody who has a proven misconduct record of four years, c'mon."
After this column was published, Anderson reached out to dispute my claim that this recall is Kiefert is a part of the Bastiat Caucus movement in the state. "I, nor any of the other members of the sponsoring committee are or previously have been state legislators, and as such the claim that the recall is being led by the Bastiat Caucus is false," he wrote in an email. "It is also false to claim the recall is because of the vote to expel representative Simons. Our sponsoring committee began meeting to plan this recall before that resolution was even presented."
I can't verify whether that last claim is true, though the fact that Anderson was involved in both the censure of Kiefert over the Simons expulsion and this recall effort seems relevant.
As for Anderson's contention that this recall isn't a part of the Bastiat Caucus movement, that's been a consistent claim made by the people involved in the efforts to censure lawmakers, take over party leadership, and now recall elected Republicans. The Bastiat Caucus refuses to divulge a membership list, so it's hard to say just how organized they are behind the scenes, but it strains credulity to believe that all of these things are happening in a vacuum without any connection between them.
Republican lawmakers have been censured for not voting for Bastiat Caucus bills, and for voting for the expulsion of Simons, an outspoken Bastiat Caucus member. That hardly seems like a coincidence.
This recall campaign is the latest front in a growing divide in the North Dakota Republican Party between a largely moderate majority and a rancorous faction of loosely affiliated, die-hard Trump supporters who generally operate under the umbrella of the Bastiat Caucus in the Legislature.
"It's a movement," Kiefert told me. "They're trying to take over the Legislature."
It seems as though they're trying to take over more than that.
This faction attempted to grab the leadership of the NDGOP earlier this year, though that didn't go well.
Their other initiatives include a campaign to recall Gov. Doug Burgum — that one will require nearly 90,000 signatures — and a constitutional amendment aimed at implementing term limits only for the governor's office and the Legislature.
UPDATE: This column has been updated with comments from Mr. Anderson disputing my characterization of his recall campaign.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.