As I’m sure most of you are aware, North Dakota and the United States as a whole just recently participated in the 2018 midterm elections. Us North Dakotans elected a new senator, representative and decided on many other public official positions and policies. While all of these elections, from district representatives to senators, are immensely important, I’m going to be brutally honest and admit that the only real elections I focused on were the Heitkamp-Cramer Senatorial race and the four measures that were on the ballot. I know that voting for our tax and agriculture commissioners is incredibly important, but I can only focus on so many races in so much time. So with the election recently over, I’m going to utilize my God-given First Amendment rights to speak about what happened in the midterms, why the elections resulted in the way they did and how I think North Dakota should proceed into the future.
Regarding the Senatorial race between Heidi Heitkamp and Kevin Cramer, I have to say I’m not surprised by the results. I think most people, myself included, didn’t think Heitkamp was going to keep her seat. One only needs to look at the previous election to realize just how slim Heitkamp’s chances were. While she did beat out Rick Berg during the last Senatorial election, she won by an incredibly narrow margin, less than 1 percent of the vote to be precise. Not knocking on Berg, but Cramer’s chances of winning this year were far higher given the fact that he has quite a bit more name recognition and popularity than Berg. Heitkamp already struggled to beat one Republican for her North Dakota Senate seat; running a campaign against arguably the most popular Republican in the whole state was an uphill battle from the start.
The recent Brett Kavanaugh hearings didn’t help Heitkamp either. She was utterly stuck in a lose-lose situation. If she voted to confirm Kavanaugh, she might have had a better chance at keeping her Senatorial seat, but she would have alienated herself from the rest of the Democratic Party in Washington. If she voted against Kavanaugh, as she eventually did, she would torpedo her campaign in North Dakota given how so many Republicans and moderates supported Kavanaugh throughout the hearing. Heitkamp’s decision to vote against Kavanaugh, along with Cramer’s name recognition and local support, is what ultimately led to her defeat Tuesday.
Personally, I’ll admit that I voted for Cramer over Heitkamp. This doesn’t mean, however, that I’m an ardent Cramer supporter. I disagree with both candidates on several key issues, ranging from gun control to military spending. As a pro-lifer, I fundamentally disagree with her on abortion. I also disagree with her stance on immigration, Obamacare and drug reform.
With that being said, I also disagree with Cramer on several key issues as well. I dislike his stringent support of our massive military budget and constant bombings in Syria. The biggest issue I have with Cramer, however, is his outdated stance on drug policy. Cramer openly stated on Rob Port’s radio show back in 2017 that he was against the legalization of marijuana. He even went as far as to state: “If I could, I’d roll it back so we couldn’t have booze.” As someone who strongly supported the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana in North Dakota, the idea that any public official in my state is against marijuana legalization and thinks that alcohol should be illegal is worrisome to say the least.
That being said, I think they’re both good people personally, but in terms of politics, I disagree with both of them intensely. But then again I didn’t vote for Cramer based on his drug reform policy. I voted for him because a Republican-controlled Senate for the next few years looks far more appetizing to me than the alternative. Pelosi, Schumer, Waters, Sanders and many other popular and powerful Democrats have been drifting much too far left for my taste. The Republican Party is in no way perfect, but in terms of which group of people I want shaping my nation’s laws for the foreseeable future, I’m going to have to go with the elephant. Let’s just hope they actually stick with their supposed principles and shrink the size of the federal government.
While the Senate race was certainly important, my real focus for the last few months has been on the measures that were on the ballot last Tuesday. Specifically, Measure 1 and Measure 3, which, if Measure 3 had passed, will both have a massive effect on our state. Measure 1, which I was and still am strongly opposed to, passed with 53.6 percent voting yes and 46.4 percent voting no. This measure, for those who don’t know, adds new sections to the North Dakota State Constitution and will create a five-person ethics commission that’s supposed to “adopt ethics rules related to transparency, corruption, elections and lobbying.” These new sections also add new rules in regards to lobbying and campaign contributions, one of which makes it illegal for any lobbyist to give any gift to a public official unless they are directly related.
I understand the sentiment behind this measure. I dislike corruption in our government as much as the next person. However, establishing an unelected commission of people with vaguely defined duties and powers is not the way to go about this. As an aside, I think it’s rich that this measure’s intention is to stop political corruption and lobbying, but it was funded and promoted using out of state money from coastal organizations. But back to the main point. The main problem with this measure is that it’s terribly worded. While it does establish the ethics commission, it doesn’t actually define what their exact powers are. The closest thing this measure has to a set of actual duties is its third section, subsection 2, which reads as follows:
“The ethics commission may adopt ethics rules related to transparency, corruption, elections and lobbying to which any lobbyist, public official or candidate for public office shall be subject, and may investigate alleged violations of such rules, this article and related state laws.
Bam. That’s it. That’s all this measure has to say in terms of what the ethics commission actually does and what governmental powers it has. This poorly worded section opens a massive can of worms. Is the ethics commission more powerful than the governor? Is it more powerful than the state legislature? If not, what’s the actual power hierarchy here? What real governmental powers do they have? They can investigate “alleged” violations of lobbying rules? So can they issue warrants now so long as someone alleges that a public official broke a lobbying regulation? If I claim that the Burke County sheriff broke a corruption law, does this ethics commission now get to conduct their own investigation into the department based on one person’s baseless claim? If so, what’s the procedure for this “investigation”? It gets even worse when you consider the fact that Measure 1 is now in the State Constitution. This means that even if the legislature or anyone else wants to edit the measure, it’s incredibly hard to do so. As someone who is vehemently opposed to government overreach and bureaucracy, the idea that an unelected ethics commission with vaguely worded powers in now a Constitutionally-empowered entity within my state sickens me.
In regards to Measure 3, I have so much to say, but this entire paper isn’t big enough to contain those words. Measure 3, for the small handful that haven’t heard of it, would’ve legalized recreational marijuana manufacturing, distribution and possession for those 21 or older. It also would’ve sealed the records of ex-convicts who were arrested for nonviolent marijuana crimes in the past. Like I said in my bit on Cramer, I am someone who is extremely passionate about drug reform for North Dakota and the United States as a whole. I helped promote Measure 3 on my own personal time. I truly hoped that this would’ve passed, given the surprise passage of medical marijuana back in 2016. But for those of us that were watching the results last Tuesday, we know that Measure 3 lost with 59.5 percent voting no and 40.5 percent voting yes. In hindsight, it isn’t surprising considering how many Baby Boomers and Christian conservatives live in North Dakota. But regardless, I had stayed hopeful and now have to sadly deal with the results. Despite the massive cash crop marijuana and hemp would both be for North Dakotan farmers, despite the tens of thousands of tax dollars we spend each year jailing people for nonviolent marijuana crimes, and despite the general American principle that each person should be able to do with their property what they wish without government interference, Measure 3 lost. Now those North Dakotans that want marijuana to treat their PTSD, anxiety, seizures, Crohn’s Disease and chronic pain will have to just keep popping those oxycodone pills and hope that sometime soon the legislature will get off its butt and actually open up some medical marijuana dispensaries soon.
So that was the North Dakota 2018 midterm elections. Obviously, there were many elections that I didn’t cover, but I felt the need to talk about the three that I think were the most impactful to North Dakota. Hopefully, Kevin Cramer will fairly represent our interests in Washington. Hopefully, medical marijuana dispensaries will open soon across our state and recreational marijuana gains more support. Hopefully, North Dakotans see this new ethics commission for the poorly planned sham it is and push to amend it out of existence in the near future. But all we can do is stay hopeful for what was lost and be thankful for what was won. See you all next midterm. Hopefully, it will turn out better than this one.