Port: There's a dog that's not barking in District 24

What if the ideological puritans wreaking chaos in the NDGOP are just more grubby, power-hungry politicians?

Rep. Dwight Kiefert, R-Valley City, speaks on the floor of the North Dakota House in 2015. Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune
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MINOT, N.D. — In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of Silver Blaze," everyone's favorite Victorian-era detective solves the case of the missing racehorse by noting "the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

What did the dog do in the night? It didn't bark.

In District 24, home to the latest front in the NDGOP's civil war between the self-styled conservative paragons of the Bastiat Caucus and the party's successful moderate majority, there's a dog that's not barking.

The Bastiats are aiming to recall state Rep. Dwight Kiefert .

The recall campaign's organizers - led by the treasurer of the District 24 NDGOP - claim that it's about his "failing to meet the standards of a Republican representing District 24." A more likely explanation is that they're ticked about Kiefert voting to expel disgraced former lawmaker (and Bastiat Caucus member) Luke Simons over accusations of sexual harassment . The guy who is leading the recall campaign, who claims unconvincingly that it's not affiliated with the Bastiats, also led an effort to censure Kiefert, and force his resignation, over the Simons vote earlier this year.


That's certainly what Kiefert thinks is motivating them. He said as much during a recent interview with me on Plain Talk Live , calling the recall campaign "dishonest and underhanded" and motivated by revenge for Simons.

But Kiefert also made an allusion, during the interview, to the dog that's not barking in his district.

Perrie Schafer , the chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party , has done what the party chair is supposed to do and stood behind the party's candidate. He has slammed the recall, calling it "frivolous and unserious."

Daniel Johnston is the NDGOP's chairman in District 24. So far, he hasn't had anything to say about the recall of one of his district's lawmakers.

He's not barking.

"Local party chairman Dan Johnston, a former state representative and candidate for state treasurer , did not respond to a request for comment," Jeremy Turley reported Monday .


I have also attempted to contact Johnston, who was a member of the Bastiat Caucus while in the Legislature, without success.

There have been no posts about the recall on the official Facebook page for the District 24 Republicans , and I'm told Johnston hasn't made any statements on his personal Facebook account either (he apparently blocked me after I wrote about his affinity for Qanon conspiracy theories and racist jokes ).

How can that be?

Johnston's inaction in response to a consequential event in his own district - a recall campaign launched by his district's treasurer against one of his district's lawmakers - seems a dereliction of duty worthy of redress.

Or maybe Johnston is behind the recall. Maybe the recall is much like all the other Bastiat Caucus machinations. Less a campaign for ideological purity than a grubby grab at power of the sort that has been endemic in politics since the dawn of humanity.

Rep. Daniel Johnston (R-Kathryn), pictured here in October 2019. (Photo via Facebook)

Johnston clearly has aspirations for public office. He ended his stint in the Legislature to pursue a foolhardy campaign for Treasurer that was so uninspiring to Republican primary voters that not even endorsements from Donald Trump and Mike Lindell could put him over the top against Thomas Beadle who would eventually win the Treasurer's seat in the general election.


Johnston apparently wants back in the Legislature, even if that means climbing over Kiefert.

The NDGOP's statewide leadership should consider removing Johnston from his chairmanship. There's nothing inherently wrong with any group of citizens making use of the recall process, however misguided their motivations, but the NDGOP has no obligation to let someone like Johnston use their leadership position in the party to facilitate attacks on elected Republicans.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

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 Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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