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Jack Zaleski, Published November 05 2011

Zaleski: Political foolishness under way in North Dakota

A little politics:

Think North Dakota Republicans are a bit nervous about former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp running for the U.S. Senate against Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D.? I think they are.

Last week, the North Dakota Republican Party carried out a pre-emptive strike against a Heitkamp candidacy by buying expensive full-page anti-Heitkamp advertisements in The Forum and The Bismarck Tribune. The ads attempted to identify Heitkamp with the policies of the Obama administration. While the linkages for some of the issues were less than honest, the ads signaled the campaign theme Republicans will stress if Heitkamp is the Democratic endorsee to run against Berg.

I say “if” because Heitkamp has not announced she’s running for anything. Maybe the ads were designed to discourage her from getting in because Berg supporters know she would be a formidable candidate who owns a lot of goodwill among North Dakotans, regardless of political persuasion.

And this factor: There is at least one poll out there (internal, held close to the vest) that purportedly suggests Berg is not a slam-dunk for the Senate seat if Heitkamp is the Democratic candidate. A pre-emptive strike might appear to be over the top, but maybe Republicans have seen the same polling data.

Cheap shot

In the political cheap-shot competition, newly minted North Dakota Democratic NPL Chairman Greg Hodur is first out of the chute. In responding to Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s announcement that he’s running for a full term, Hodur said the governor was politicking and fundraising instead of preparing for the special session of the Legislature, which begins Monday.

The chairman’s judgment must be clouded by his heady ascent to the leadership post. The air can get thin up there. Makes for fuzzy thinking.

Anyone who had been following the governor for the past few months would have been hard-pressed to keep up with him. He’s not only been preparing for the special session in his Capitol office with his staff but he’s been on the ground all over the state. He’s the energizer bunny of state government. He’s seen up-close and firsthand the needs in oil country in the west and flood zones from Minot to Lisbon. He will be eminently prepared for the special session because he’ll be carrying with him knowledge and experience gained while out in nearly every county of the state.

Hodur’s job surely includes criticizing the folks in the other party, but to characterize the governor’s work as “campaigning” doesn’t square with the facts. North Dakotans won’t buy it.

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.