Editorial: North Dakota governor’s race is going to be good

Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s announcement Monday morning that he won’t seek re-election in 2016 was shocking to many, including some members of his own party. But, unlike many states, it’s unlikely the governor’s decision is foreshadowing a vast political shakeup in North Dakota.
Instead, it’ll make for great debate into next year as to who is the best fit to replace him. The Republicans, led by Dalrymple, have an undeniably “deep bench,” as state Sen. Kelly Armstrong, the GOP chairman from Dickinson, told Forum News Service capitol reporter Mike Nowatzki on Monday.
Within minutes of Dalrymple’s announcement, Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem were on Republican’s lips as his potential replacement. Even Fargo businessman Doug Burgum said he’s “open minded” about considering a run for the office, despite having no prior political experience. Heck, we’ve even had people ask if Dickinson Mayor Dennis Johnson would consider running.

On the other side, North Dakota Democrats believe their best shot at the office is turning to a person who spends most of her time in Washington.

Armstrong told Nowatzki that the state’s GOP has been operating as if Sen. Heidi Heitkamp would enter the governor’s race in 2016, even before Dalrymple announced he’d be stepping aside. Now, the speculation that she will is only growing.

 However, meetings we’ve had with Heitkamp leave us unconvinced she’s willing to take a chance of leaving the Senate to come back and preside over her home state. While we don’t believe she’d be a bad governor, she has become deeply involved in many national issues during her nearly three years in Washington. She’s been a loud voice against human traffi cking, and is now defending the Export-Import Bank and pushing — along her Republican colleagues Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Kevin Cramer — to lift the U.S. crude oil export ban.

She’d be taking a big chance running for governor, and would likely leave her Senate seat vulnerable to someone from that deep Republican bench should she lose the gubernatorial race.

Whoever takes over for Dalrymple is going to be entering a different North Dakota than the one the governor inherited from Hoeven.

Dalrymple was North Dakota’s oil boom governor. But now that boom phase is over and with prices seemingly on the decline, the state is settling into what appears to be a quiet but nonetheless strong energy development phase. It means there’ll be fewer oil tax dollars fl owing into the state’s coffers, but it also means less problems brought on by the infl ux of energy companies and population.

Despite leaping some high hurdles during his governorship, Dalrymple’s administration and the state Legislature have set the table for his successor, whoever that may be.

 Let the games begin.

Author: Dustin Monke

Former newspaper editor. Now I market the best baked goods and donuts in America. But every once in a while, I write a cool story too.

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