Hoeven Backs Trump, Though They Don’t Agree on Everything

North Dakota’s Republican senator said Wednesday that he is maintaining his support of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Sen. John Hoeven, following a roundtable with Dickinson business and city leaders, lived up to his promise to support his party’s presidential nominee despite being relatively quiet about Trump’s candidacy.

“I support Trump as our nominee for the party,” Hoeven said. “I don’t agree with everything he says, but I agree that he would be better for our state and our country than Secretary Clinton, who would continue the kind of big regulation, big government, big tax approach the current administration has.”

Hoeven has long been an opponent of the Obama administration’s regulatory policies and said he believes a Hillary Clinton presidency would mean more of the same.

Nonetheless, Hoeven has been tight-lipped about Trump since the New York businessman accepted the Republican nomination for president and was the state’s highest-ranking GOP official who didn’t attend Trump’s speech at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference last May in Bismarck.

Hoeven, who is seeking re-election in November, also responded to criticisms by his opponent, current state Rep. Eliot Glassheim. On Tuesday, the Grand Forks Democrat called for Hoeven to withdraw his support of Trump following what he called the presidential candidate’s “demeaning insults” about Kazir Khan, a Muslim-American father of a fallen soldier.

Glassheim said Hoeven should condemn Trump’s statements.

“What’s more, Sen. Hoeven should explain to North Dakotans precisely why he continues to support Donald Trump while refusing to condemn, distance himself from, or even comment on, Trump’s outrageous behavior,” Glassheim stated in a release. “If Sen. Hoeven cannot honestly offer such an explanation to voters, he should have the courage to withdraw his support for Trump’s candidacy for president.”

Hoeven said he’s more focused on his own re-election campaign and issues pertaining to North Dakotans than the presidential election.

“I tell the people what I’m about, what I believe in, what I believe can help our state — a positive vision for the future of North Dakota, the vision of our country — and then it’s up to them,” Hoeven said. “It’s an honor to serve North Dakota, but people decide. That’s how I’ve always approached it. That’s how I’m approaching it now and as long as I’m in office, that’s how I will approach it. That’s what’s important.”

Hoeven did, however, say that “everyone should support Gold Star families,” the designation for families who have lost a member during military service in wartime.

The senator added that while he knows Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson well and considers him a friend, he won’t be backing his campaign.

Johnson was born in Hoeven’s hometown of Minot, and served as New Mexico’s governor at the same time as Hoeven was governor of North Dakota.

“He’s an interesting guy, a good guy,” Hoeven said. “I agree with him on some things but obviously not others. We’re good friends and it’s always interesting to see what he’s going to offer.”

Simons, Schatz Win GOP Nomination in District 36 House

The two Republican Party-endorsed candidates for District 36 House of Representatives are moving on to the general election.

Rep. Mike Schatz and Luke Simons gained the party’s nominations on Tuesday, each garnering more than 1,800 votes in a three-person race.

Rep. Alan Fehr, who did not receive the party’s endorsement during the district convention, will not return the Legislature next session after finishing third in the voting with just over 1,200 votes.

Simons, a rancher from rural Dickinson and a self-described Constitutionalist, received the party’s nomination earlier this year over Fehr.

He said he has spoken with several people on the campaign trail who agree with allegiance to the U.S. Constitution and conservative Christian philosophies.

“I think I’m explaining some principles we used to hold to be self-evident to a lot of people,” Simons said.

Schatz, a retired teacher and football coach from New England, said it was the most interesting race and first contested primary he’s ever been a part of.

There was a lot of time and effort put in by everybody,” Schatz said. “I want to thank Alan and Luke for being such gentlemen during the campaign. It was a well-run primary.”

Fehr, a Dickinson psychologist and retired U.S. Navy officer, said he was grateful for the opportunity to serve in the Legislature over the past four years, and for the people who supported him.

“It’s one of those things that a lot of people don’t have the opportunity for, and I’m grateful for the opportunity,” he said. “I learned a lot doing that and it was a great experience.”

Sen. Kelly Armstrong, the state Republican Party chairman, ran unopposed in the primary.

On the Democrat-NPL side, Senate candidate John D.W. Fielding received just 224 votes while running unopposed. House candidates Dean Meyer and Linda Kittilson received 208 and 207 votes, respectively, to move on to the general election.

Holtz motivates energy conference in leadup to Trump

BISMARCK — Lou Holtz joked Thursday that the last time he was in North Dakota, oil was $100 a barrel and he wasn’t homeless.

The former college football coach and ESPN commentator, who lost a Florida home in a fire last summer, encouraged energy industry leaders and workers to take the recent oil downturn in stride during a speech preceding Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s appearance at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference.

“Quitting is a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” he said. “Until you fly on solar energy, oil is going to continue to be very, very important.”

Holtz, a former board member for Watford City-based Nuverra Environmental Solutions, only lightly touched on energy in his speech and went through standard motivational material that has made him a sought-after speaker nationwide.

Holtz peppered multiple jokes throughout his 40-minute speech. His few moments speaking about oil were tied into his motivational theme, and for a moment, Holtz even got political.

“We all have injustices done,” he said. “It would bother the daylights out of me in this oil business, where our government subsidizes all kinds of fancy things and puts all kinds of restrictions on me. But you can’t be bitter about it.”

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Southwest North Dakota Meets Doug Burgum

Doug Burgum spent the past two days introducing himself to southwest North Dakotans, and left with an endorsement from a longtime area leader.

The Fargo-based tech millionaire and Republican candidate for governor wrapped up his trip Wednesday by receiving an endorsement from Dennis Johnson, Dickinson’s former mayor and president of TMI Systems Design Corp. — one of the city’s largest businesses.

“He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met and I think he has what North Dakota needs right now,” said Johnson, who introduced Burgum to a crowd of a few dozen gathered at the B2 Lounge in downtown Dickinson. “We need to continue diversifying the economy and he knows all about that.”

Burgum and his lieutenant governor candidate, Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford, spent Tuesday visiting Bowman, Scranton and Hettinger. They then went to Beach and Medora on Wednesday before returning to Dickinson. Burgum is facing state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and architect Paul Sorum in the June 14 primary.

Though he owns a ranch in southwest North Dakota, Burgum has made few appearances in the area since announcing his candidacy in January. He and Sanford, who joined the campaign during the North Dakota Republican convention in March, tried to make up for that this week.

The duo said they mostly heard from voters concerned about property taxes, infrastructure needs and declining sales in the wake of the oil industry’s downturn.

They claimed very few southwest North Dakotans pushed them on Burgum’s social leanings — both he and Stenehjem are on record supporting gay marriage and have been quiet on most other social issues — and said he saw this as a sign of what voters are truly concerned about.

“We’re not running on social issues,” Burgum said. “We’re running because we believe we can get conservative business leaders into the office — people who can help set the state on the right track, relative to our fiscal things. It (social issues) doesn’t come up. We don’t talk about it and they don’t bring it up, because I don’t think it’s the thing that’s leading on voter’s minds right now.”

Burgum was behind both Stenehjem and state Rep. Rick Becker in the state convention delegate voting, receiving just 15 percent of the vote on the first ballot and 10 percent on the second ballot.

However, earlier this month, his campaign released internal polling showing him trailing Stenehjem by just 4 percent

— 44 to 40 percent with 15 percent undecided and 1 percent backing Sorum, who joined the race after the convention. He reiterated that he doesn’t plan to release details of how his campaign came to those numbers.

“We’re very confident in the accuracy of the polling data and we’re very confident in how it was done,” Burgum said. “It is the same numbers we’re making decisions off of. I’m a guy who is data-driven. I’m not going to make decisions off of some pumped-up set of data.”

Several Dickinson business leaders listened to Burgum give his pitch for office during the meet and greet.

He said in a separate interview that, if elected, he’d push for more local “empowerment.” He used Sanford — who, in addition to being Watford City’s mayor, owns an automotive dealership — as an example of someone spent a good chunk of time during oil boom years lobbying for legislative funding as his city’s population and needs boomed.

“I want to make sure we’re the most empowered state we can possible be,” he said. “… If a mayor of a city has to spend half of their year, every other year, coming to Bismarck to try and get some dollars to come back to their community versus actually being in their community and driving ideas and making things happen, we’re taking them away from a productive role and making them come to the center to actually get an allocation.”

Scott Decker, who is running for mayor of Dickinson, attended the Wednesday evening meet and greet but didn’t say whether or not he was supporting Burgum for governor.

Decker, instead, said he used the opportunity to get “on my soapbox,” and tell the candidate about issues bothering him

— including the amount of energy-related funding that was allocated to non-Oil Patch areas in previous legislative sessions.

“I think he’s hearing different things from a lot of people,” Decker said.

Burgum spoke about his ownership in a cattle operation with the Hanson family of Slope County, though he laughed and said he’s “not pretending to be a real rancher.”

In his speech to the group, Burgum’s voice broke when speaking about Robert Hanson, a longtime Slope County rancher who Burgum said “really filled an important hole in my life” in the years following his own father’s death.

John Hanson, Robert’s son who became friends with Burgum while they were attending North Dakota State University, called him a “man who has particular skills — rare skills.”

“He has a huge amount of energy, he has a huge amount of passion, he is completely sincere about his desire to serve the people of the state and, in every way thus far, he has proven himself,” Hanson said. “He’s a leader. He’s exceptional. He’s an uncommon man.”

Burgum said he was pleased with what he learned on his trip to the southwest corner of the state, and, after visiting with many people affected by the energy industry’s downturn, leaves convinced he has a chance at winning the June primary.

“You can’t go to one of those places and go, ‘It’s never been a better time to be a North Dakotan,’” he said.

Becker calls for big budget cuts

One of North Dakota’s two Republicans seeking the nomination for governor said Saturday in Dickinson that the state’s next leader will be faced with cutting $1.5 billion in appropriations spending out of its general fund.

State Rep. Rick Becker speaks to a crowd at the Astoria Hotel and Event Center in Dickinson on Saturday.
State Rep. Rick Becker speaks to a crowd at the Astoria Hotel and Event Center in Dickinson on Saturday.

State Rep. Rick Becker pointed to declining oil revenues and low, stagnant agriculture commodity prices for what he feels is a massive spending cut looming in the 2017 legislative session.

“We find ourselves in a situation where the status quo of what we’ve been doing and our level of spending isn’t going to work anymore,” Becker told about two dozen people who gathered for a town hall campaign stop at the Astoria Hotel and Event Center in Dickinson

Becker, a Mandan plastic surgeon who was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2012, spoke for an hour about why he should be North Dakota’s next governor. He said he views himself as an “underdog” and a “non-establishment” candidate compared to state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who announced his candidacy in November and is viewed by most Republicans as the favorite to not only win their nomination, but also next November’s election.

Continue reading “Becker calls for big budget cuts”