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Esmond-born Political Figure Dies

By Staff | Dec 28, 2015

A man who helped shape politics in North Dakota was laid to rest early this week.

Sebastian “Buckshot” Hoffner was a leader in a 1950s movement to merge the N.D. Democratic Party with the Non-Partisan League. He died last week a care center in Bismarck at the age of 91.

Hoffner was born Jan. 20, 1924 on the family farm near Esmond. He served in World War II and later became active in Non-Partisan League politics.

In the 1950s the Non-Partisan League had been divided into two factions: “the old guard” and the “insurgents”. The “insurgents” were more liberally-aligned and supported Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson, while the “old guard” was more conservative and supported Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The “insurgents” also pushed for the league to move into the Democratic party, while the “old guard” wanted the league to stay in the Republican party.

Between 1956 and 1958, the league split in two. The Democratic-NPL party was formed later.

Former Lieutenant Governor Lloyd Omdahl said that after the Democratic-NPL party formed, Hoffner “worked to make it work”. He served as the last chairman of the NPL’s Executive Committee.

Hoffner served 18 years in the state Legislature, including in the House from 1962-66, 1968-72 and 1983-84, and in the Senate from 1972-1980. He served as House Minority Leader in 1971 and Senate Minority Leader in 1975, 1977 and 1979.

N.D. Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp interned under Hoffner in 1977.

“Buckshot embodied North Dakota’s salt of the earth, hard-working spirit more than anyone,” Heitkamp said. “He was a colorful character who cared deeply about this state, and he’ll be deeply missed.”

Omdahl said: “His amiable nature served the state well. Even though [he was] a partisan activist, he worked well with politicians from both parties, more interested in results than victories.”

Funeral services for Hoffner were held Tuesday at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Esmond. Burial was in the church cemetery, with military honors provided by the Esmond VFW Post #4251 and the N.D. Military Funeral Honors Teams.

– Tribune Staff Report

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