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Published March 19 2010

Forum editorial: All smiles at ND GOP convention

The smiles should be broad among North Dakota Republicans who are gathering today in Grand Forks for the party’s nominating convention. The state party is in good shape. Candidates for major offices – many of them proven incumbents – can count on relatively weak opponents from the Democratic-NPL Party, which meets next week in Fargo.

The national political climate favors Republicans. And North Dakota Republicans own the governor’s office, the Legislature and all but one statewide elected office.

It appears the stars are aligned for yet another triumphant Republican year in North Dakota.

But as any savvy politico knows, nothing in politics should be taken for granted. What the voters giveth, the voters can taketh away. North Dakota voters tend to like incumbents, no matter party affiliation, thus Republicans on the state level have enjoyed a long run in part because of North Dakotans’ comfort level with competent incumbents.

It is instructive, for example, to note that several Republican officeholders were appointed to their offices – donning a faux mantle of incumbency – and then won full terms (insurance commissioner, tax commissioner). That looks to be the recipe for keeping Doug Goehring on as commissioner of agriculture. Goehring lost twice to popular Democratic Commissioner Roger Johnson. But Johnson won’t be on the ballot this time, having taken a job with the National Farmers Union. Goehring was appointed to the job by Gov. John Hoeven. Thus far, Democrats don’t have an ag candidate with the vote-getting clout Johnson demonstrated even in years of Republican dominance.

Nor do Democrats have any other potential candidates for state offices that would compel odds makers to bet against Republican incumbents.

That being said, the contest to watch this weekend is between Rep. Rick Berg, R-Fargo, and Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer for the endorsement to challenge Congressman Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D. Berg is virtually unknown outside of the Legislature and his Fargo district. Cramer hopes a third time is the charm, having lost to Pomeroy twice. Delegates have a tough choice: the obscure lawmaker or the two-time loser. Either would be a good candidate, but even in the giddiness of a political convention, no one should discount Pomeroy’s war chest and the power of incumbency.

Overall, however, North Dakota Republicans are positioned to do very well in November. That sentiment surely will make for a successful and justifiably happy nominating convention.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.