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Port: ND Democrats fail to find candidates in district that was once a stronghold

North Dakota Democratic Party Chairwoman Kylie Oversen. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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MINOT, N.D. — For decades now, North Dakotans have entered every new election cycle with a question on their lips: Is this the year the state's Democrats finally march back in from the cold, barren margins of relevance?

So far, given some of the depressing outcomes Democrats are seeing in their local district conventions, the answer for the 2020 cycle is probably "no."

At these events, delegates are chosen for each party's state convention, and local candidates are endorsed (they're officially nominated on the June ballot).

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the plight of Democrats in District 28, a geographically massive jurisdiction in the south-central part of the state which is home to three Republican legislative incumbents.

The district convention held by local Democrats attracted just six people, an outcome the district's chair attributed to "a lack of enthusiasm and party organization."


No candidates showed up to seek the party's endorsement for the Legislature.


Meanwhile, the NDGOP in District 28 saw about 170 people at their convention. They endorsed their incumbents, and even have a Republican challenger in the House race.

"But that's a Republican district," you'll tell me. "It's not fair to expect Democrats to perform well there."

Democrats can't make up ground in the Legislature without winning in Republican districts, but okay.

Let's take a look at a district that was a Democratic stronghold not so long ago.

If 2020 is the year for North Dakota Democrats, they'll start to sow the seeds of that comeback in places like District 42 in the Grand Forks area, right?

In 2016, 42's three seats in the Legislature were all held by Democrats.


Not just any Democrats. Some of the party's young stars.

In the House were Corey Mock, who was Assistant Minority Leader, and Kylie Oversen, chairwoman of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL.

In the Senate was Mac Schneider, a member of a prominent political family and Senate Minority Leader. He was also his party's candidate for the U.S. House in 2018.

Schneider and Oversen lost their 2016 re-election bids. Mock moved to District 18, where he barely survived a Republican takeover there as well.

With District 42's seats on the ballot again, how are Democrats doing with candidate recruitment?

Not so well. The local Democrats held their convention this last weekend, and they had no candidates come forward.

As I write this, there are still no announced Democratic candidates for District 42.

The Dems still have time. They can still put candidates on the June ballot (though Oversen likely won't be one; she's still party chair and, I'm told, eyeing a campaign for Treasurer).


Yet failing to get candidates at the time of the local convention in a district, which was a bastion for the Democrats not that long ago, is more than a bit embarrassing.

It may well be a canary in the coal mine for how the entire 2020 cycle will go for Democrats.

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Rob Port, founder of, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.

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 Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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