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Port: Rep. Kim Koppelman's loss in District 13 is another blow for the Bastiat Caucus wing of the NDGOP

It's been a month of losses for the Bastiat faction of the NDGOP.

Speaker Koppelman Oath of Office.jpg
Rep. Kim Koppelman, R-West Fargo, is sworn in during the 2021 legislative session as the first North Dakota Speaker of the House to hail from West Fargo.
Special to the Pioneer
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MINOT, N.D. — One of the challenges of writing about Republican politics in North Dakota right now is how we go about describing the factions.

It's not that hard for one side of the NDGOP split. They're the "establishment." The traditional Republicans. The normies.

But what do we call the very Trumpy, self-styled "True Conservatives" who are making a lot of noise but not, ultimately, finding a lot of success?

Are they the ultra-conservatives? Some reporters like to use that term, though as an actual conservative I take umbrage to its application to a bunch of rank populists who aren't out to limit government so much as to use its power to prosecute their culture war.

Are they the Bastiat Caucus? I've used that term a lot, though I admit it's problematic because it's the name of a specific group of Republican lawmakers. They keep their membership a secret, for the most part, and membership isn't necessarily open to the general public.

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Are they Trumpists? Their bullying approach to politics is demonstrably Trumpy, and there is heavy overlap between this faction of the NDGOP and MAGA world. Then again, the recent battle for the party's Senate endorsement saw Trump endorse incumbent Sen. John Hoeven over Bastiat Caucus founder Rick Becker, who is arguably the leader of that faction, though we can argue that the endorsement was just Trump hedging his bets .

Whatever you want to call these people — Trumpists, Bastiats, ultra-conservatives, Becker backers — they're having a bad month.

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If our congressional delegation isn't paying attention to the Jan. 6 committee, if they're dismissive of its revelations, then they are derelict in their duties to our state, and our country.

Trump endorsed Hoeven and not Becker. The NDGOP convention delegates chose Hoeven over Becker, too. Meanwhile, the secretary of state barred from the ballot a term limits amendment they were backing because of alleged illegal practices in the signature collection process , and the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation continues to review that matter .

Now the Bastiats/Trumpists/Becker backers have seemingly lost the man they thought could be majority leader in the statehouse next session, replacing Rep. Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, who isn't running for re-election.

Rep. Kim Koppelman lost his district party's endorsement last night. Incumbent Rep. Austen Schauer got 82 votes, but West Fargo School Board President Jim Jonas (67 votes) beat out Koppelman (48 votes) for the second endorsement.

Koppelman is widely viewed as being very sympathetic to the Bastiat Caucus. "We lost three days during the session to Koppelman refusing to gavel those people down," one lawmaker grumbled to me at the NDGOP convention over the weekend.

Kim Koppelman
Kim Koppelman
State of North Dakota photo

Koppelman, who has served in the House since 1994 and was speaker of the House last session, could still run to the June primary, but reportedly he pledged to delegates at the convention that he wouldn't if he lost the endorsement.

His loss has a lot of tongues wagging in political circles. One of his supporters called me this morning and attributed the loss to Gov. Doug Burgum and his "henchman" going out and "recruiting delegates to show up and vote against Koppelman." He bolstered this argument by pointing out that the chairman of the District 13 NDGOP is Levi Bachmeier, who has worked for Burgum in the past.

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I have no idea to what extent Burgum and his allies were involved in what happened in District 13, but even if they were out "recruiting delegates," that's how this game is played.

You may as well accuse the Chicago Bulls of winning basketball games by throwing the ball through the hoop.

At least the District 13 Republicans didn't bar newcomers from participating like the Bastiats did in District 3 earlier this week.

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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