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Port: Rick Becker, a rank hypocrite, launches independent campaign for U.S. Senate

When Rick Becker was seeking the North Dakota GOP's nomination, he said he intended to respect the vote of the convention delegates. That was his explanation for not continuing to pursue the nomination on the June primary ballot. Yet here we are in August, and Becker is reigniting his campaign, collecting signatures so that he can appear on the November ballot as an independent.

State Rep. Rick Becker delivers a speech to delegates in support of his campaign for the U.S. Senate at the NDGOP's 2022 state convention in Bismarck, North Dakota, April 2, 2022.
State Rep. Rick Becker delivers a speech to delegates in support of his campaign for the U.S. Senate at the NDGOP's 2022 state convention in Bismarck, North Dakota, April 2, 2022.
Photo by Kyle Martin
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MINOT — Outgoing state Rep. Rick Becker, who failed to receive the NDGOP's endorsement at their state convention this spring, has made a career out of portraying himself as the perfect distillation of consistency in politics.

Becker sticks to his principles, we're told. He talks about it endlessly.

So what, then, to make of his decision to run for the U.S. Senate as an independent?

When Becker was seeking the NDGOP's nomination, he said he intended to respect the vote of the convention delegates. That was his explanation for not continuing to pursue the nomination on the June primary ballot. I was in the room at the state convention when Becker was critical of his opponent, incumbent John Hoeven, for not committing to respecting the vote of the convention.

Yet here we are in August, and Becker is reigniting his campaign, collecting signatures so that he can appear on the November ballot as an independent.

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Becker, no doubt aware of what a colossal act of hypocrisy this is, tries to get ahead of that criticism in his release announcing the decision: “I have spent the last 10 years helping make the party stronger by pushing it to stand by its stated conservative principles," he states. "I am not breaking with the party, rather I am continuing to hold it accountable."

Despite his claims that he's still a loyal Republican, Becker's decision is a boon to Democrats. Their candidate, Katrina Christiansen, was never going to be very competitive against Hoeven, who remains very popular, but she'll be far more competitive than she would have been had Becker not entered the race.

Becker, once upon a time a principled conservative, has, in the Trump era, morphed himself into an ardent culture warrior with a small but rabidly faithful legion of social media followers who, clearly, are his real constituency.

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This is a consequential decision he's making, though it's unlikely to impact the ultimate outcome of the Senate race.

Barring some unforeseen calamity for his campaign, Hoeven will win, but Becker will have crossed a Rubicon in terms of his relationship with the state party.

He's not just going back on his own claims of loyalty to the rank-and-file Republicans who participated in the NDGOP's convention. He's picking a fight with the party endorsed candidate, who not only won at the convention, but won in the June primary.

If Becker wasn't satisfied with the convention vote, why did he decline to run in June?

How can he expect Republicans to consider him a trustworthy member of their party if he will, on a whim born of his almost incalculable ego, challenge his own party's candidate as an independent?

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The NDGOP itself is asking the same questions, putting out a statement indicating that, as far as they're concerned, Becker has left the party.

NDGOP Becker press release
A press release sent out by the North Dakota Republican Party responding to outgoing state Rep. Rick Becker announcing that he'll be campaigning against Republican Senate incumbent John Hoeven.
Screenshot

Most in the state's political circles expected Becker to make another run for governor in 2024 (he ran for and lost the party's gubernatorial convention endorsement in 2016). Can he still do that as a Republican having run against the party's own candidate this cycle?

He can't, actually. Not per the NDGOP's bylaws. Assuming Becker successfully collects the signatures he needs to run as an independent - and there is no reason to believe he won't - the NDGOP changed its rules this year to prevent candidates who recently ran as an independent from seeking their endorsement for six years.

NDGOP Bylaws
A screenshot of the NDGOP's current bylaws which prohibit a candidate who has sought another party's endorsement, or run as an independent, from seeking the NDGOP's endorsement for six years.
Provided photo

Becker wouldn't be able to run as a Republican again until 2030. At least not through the state convention.

Say what you want about political parties, but they aren't obliged to support candidates who actively campaign against their candidates.

Again, Becker is more than capable of re-arranging some of the percentages when the votes for Senate are counted in November, but he's not going to beat Hoeven.

I think he knows that too.

I think Becker isn't out to defeat Hoeven so much as tear the North Dakota Republican Party itself apart. That and garnering more attention for himself, and his nascent career as a low-rent political pundit.

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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