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Port: Most of North Dakota's statewide elected officials sign letter opposing term limits

"The biggest problem with the measure is it robs voters of the right to elect legislators they continue to support," the letter states.

North Dakota State Capitol Building
North Dakota State Capitol.
Forum News Service file photo
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MINOT, N.D. — On the ballot next month North Dakotans will get to vote on whether to put a term limits amendment into North Dakota's Constitution, but most of North Dakota's statewide elected officials have signed a letter opposing it.

The amendment would limit lawmakers to no more than eight years in a legislative chamber, and the governor would be prevented from seeking more than two four-year terms.

The amendment wouldn't apply to any of the elected officials who signed the letter, which include:

  • Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler
  • Treasurer Thomas Beadle
  • Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring
  • Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread
  • Public Service Commissioner Sheri-Haugen Hoffart
  • Secretary of State Al Jaeger
  • Attorney General Drew Wrigley

"The biggest problem with the measure is it robs voters of the right to elect legislators they continue to support," the letter states.
"Limiting legislators to two four-year terms will result in less informed and less experienced representatives and will transfer power from elected legislators to unelected agency heads and special interests," the letter continues.

It goes on to note North Dakota voters are already doing a pretty good job of turning over legislative positions on a regular basis. "Our legislature already has a healthy rate of turnover. In fact, more than 70 percent of North Dakota House and Senate members have turned over in the last 12 years. Importantly, the turnover is at the discretion of voters electing who best represents them regardless of their length of service."

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Again, the term limits measure on the ballot wouldn't apply to any of these elected officials, but it's worth noting that their service time in office varies greatly. Jaeger is one of the longest-serving elected officials in state history, having first been elected to that office in the 1990s.

On the other end of the spectrum, Beadle is still in his first term, and both Wrigley and Haugen-Hoffart are appointees and on the ballot this year for election to a first term.

Among the statewide elected officials not signing the letter are Gov. Doug Burgum and his Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford. Burgum campaigned on term limits during his first run in 2016, and has reiterated that support recently, though he's also widely expected to seek a third term in 2024 (the ballot measure wouldn't apply to his past terms).

Public Service Commissioner Randy Christmann, Tax Commissioner Brian Kroshus, and Auditor Josh Gallion also didn't sign the letter.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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