The North Dakota GOP State Convention is this weekend at the Bismarck Event Center, and things are looking competitive.
Sen. John Hoeven is a juggernaut in North Dakota politics and even has the endorsement of President Donald Trump — but plastic surgeon and businessman Rick Becker brings passion and it’s translating to delegates.
Hoeven has easily won the convention delegates’ endorsement, first as governor in 2000 and later as a U.S. Senator.
But as Hoeven seeks his third term as senior Senator, things aren’t going to be as easy. That’s due to a growing far-right faction of the North Dakota Republicans, the Bastiat Caucus, and its leader, ultra-conservative Becker.
Sources have confirmed there are more than 2,300 delegates, which is the most ever.
In short, Becker is attacking Hoeven from the right and making him work for it — which has energized the party.
“The surge in the number of delegates was from people just coming out of the woodwork, saying I haven’t been in politics before. I’m very concerned of the direction our nation is going; I want to be a part of a change, and they came like a tidal wave. And, that took the Hoeven campaign off guard. And, so they are going out saying oh my gosh we have to do something or we’re going to lose this thing. So they are recruiting as many candidates as they can. And, that’s where you have the number from both campaigns, and seeing the number that we’re seeing,” said Becker.
“The biggest convention we had before was in 2000 when I first ran for Governor, we had 2,000 delegates in 2000, so 2,300, you know that’s exciting. A lot of people involved. Our team has worked hard, done a great job. Obviously we recognize our opponent is working hard too. But this is the process, and so we’ll have a big day tomorrow, and looking forward to it, explained Hoeven.
The party already selected Perrie Schafer as the Chair of the convention, but that could change.
There is speculation that the side supporting Becker wants to place one of their leaders as the chair of the convention.
If the side supporting Becker is able to place one of theirs as the chair, it’s expected that they will try to change election rules so that the convention is nominating and not just endorsing.
“When you look across the nation, state either have a convention or a primary. When I tell my legislative colleagues from other states that well you go to the convention, and then if you get endorsed, you go to the primary, but the people that didn’t get endorsed can still go to the primary, they only need to get 300 signatures, they’re shocked and it doesn’t make any sense to them and it doesn’t to me, and to most people, because why have both,” said Becker.
“For that kind of rule change you have to have that in 15 days ahead of time. Everybody knew that, so that’s like changing the rules in the middle of the game, and that’s not how it works, you know. People are here, they all get a vote, so let’s do it straight up the way we’ve always done it. You know, that’s democracy in action. We’re here, let’s have the votes straight up, let’s follow the rules,” said Hoeven.
Either way the situation is very fluid and we should expect fierce debate and good old fashioned bare knuckled politics.
The gavel drops at 11 am CT Saturday morning at the Bismarck Event Center.
KX will bring you the latest.