Conservatives sweep District 14 board vote
District 14 Republicans elected an entire new board at their biennial reorganization meeting Saturday, April 10, at the Rugby Cobblestone Inn.
The vote signaled a turn toward more conservative values according to the new board chair Bill Kuntz.
Meeting organizers had expected a small group in the hotel’s convention room. Instead, a large crowd “spilled out into the hallway,” according to Kuntz.
“Basically, it was a groundswell of conservative constitutional type people across the district who are very concerned and think the country is at crisis currently,” said Bill Kuntz. “A handful of them tried to organize and thought instead of just complaining about the direction where our country may be heading, maybe try to be active and show up locally and make a difference from the ground up.”
“That’s basically what happened,” Kuntz added. “For the first time in a long time, a bunch of more conservative-minded people showed up at the District 14 reorganization meeting and voted for some real change here. Nobody had any issues with people in those leadership positions,” Kuntz noted, adding some board members may not have chosen to run again for their seats.
“The concern, if you had to generalize with the group, is the representation we’re getting from our three representatives in District 14 is far less conservative than the district voters are,” Kuntz said.
“The district voters are wanting change and want our representatives to support voters and basically, if they would follow the Republican platform, we would be happy with their voting record,” Kuntz noted, “But in many voting instances, their voting is less conservative than the North Dakota Republican platform. Those kinds of votes truly make a difference and are not holding the line with conservative values.”
Kuntz said among concerns for conservative voters was North Dakota House Bill 1383.
“That would make sure if they take action at the federal level to affect North Dakotans’ Second Amendment rights, we as a state would not recognize such an unconstitutional infringement on North Dakota citizens’ protected constitutional rights,” Kuntz said of the bill. “We didn’t get support necessarily for that.”
“The bill did not make it,” Kuntz added.
District 14 Rep. Jon Nelson explained the rationale for the House’s “no” vote.
“It was a bill that would have restricted law enforcement from working with federal law enforcement on gun crimes,” Nelson said of House Bill 1383. “It was a bill that law enforcement opposed because in many of the cases, whether it’s a murder case or a drug task force case, they work in combination with the FBI, the U.S. Marshal Service and in our area, the Border Patrol as partners. This bill would have prohibited anybody in North Dakota from working with a federal agency if an executive order regarding guns would have come down from the federal bench.”
“Law enforcement opposed this bill vehemently,” Nelson added.
“There was a companion, House Bill 1335 that was deemed constitutional in other states. The bill 1383 had some real constitutional issues with it,” Nelson noted. “1335 has been tested in other states and I voted for 1335. It protected our 10th Amendment rights just like what the gentleman was concerned about. Of course, nobody gave us credit for that one.”
Kuntz said a recent three-cent gasoline tax hike voted in by North Dakota legislators also caused dismay in his group. “That’s a tax that’s not going away, ever,” he said.
Nelson explained the decision by House members to pass the gas tax.
“To meet the federal match – 80 percent of the road repair and highway construction dollars are federal dollars – we have to meet that 20 percent with state funds,” Nelson said.
“Generally, what we’ve done is we’ve had a three-tiered approach to (taxes for roads),” Nelson added. “It’s vehicle registration fees, license fees and gas taxes. We’ve been very close to having to use general fund revenues or other funds, in fact we have had to do that in other bienniums – to meet that federal match.”
“I’ve supported gas taxes as the vehicle to meet that federal match as our best switch. If we use registrations, for example, 100 percent of those dollars used for registrations are paid by North Dakota citizens,” Nelson said. “From a farming community, I might have 10 vehicles I have to license. If registration fees go up, I have to pay more for every one of those irrespective of whether they ever hit a paved road.”
“Half of the gas taxes raised in North Dakota is paid by out-of-state residents. It’s the users of the highway. It’s simply a more fair way of recognizing that tax,” Nelson said. “I won’t apologize for supporting the gas tax increase over registration fees. They’ve gone up almost every biennium.”
Kuntz said “there are many votes” in the state Legislature that concern District 14 conservatives. “I don’t think people are necessarily concerned with one bill. It’s vote after vote that doesn’t protect individual liberty.”
“We seem to have an ever-expanding government at the local level and state level and for sure at the federal level,” Kuntz added.
Kuntz expressed concern with limits on free speech placed by what he called “woke culture.”
“People are being banned from Facebook and Twitter because they express conservative views,” he said. “The First Amendment is first in the Constitution because it’s our most important right.”
Kuntz called the right to bear firearms “a major concern” for District 14 conservatives.
“Our current administration is considering a bunch of executive orders and would in many ways like to infringe on our Second Amendment rights,” he said. “The only way you can take away somebody’s Second Amendment rights is through the amendment process of the Constitution. Any executive action is illegal, so what are we doing locally and at the state level to make sure illegal executive actions don’t infringe upon our citizens’ rights.”
“Another one is in the news is we’re concerned about our Fourth Amendment rights,” Kuntz added.
“That amendment is about due process and equal justice. It seems like we’re moving toward a social justice system rather than an equal justice system where you’re guilty because somebody’s made an accusation against you or you’re guilty because the mob shows up without you being able to present your case. You’re guilty because you were accused of something or said the wrong thing.”
“I think that’s very dangerous,” Kuntz added. “There are people across the country losing their jobs because they have a conservative opinion. We’re not supposed to be a dictatorship. We’re supposed to have people who can disagree on politics and have minority opinions.”
“We think those are foundational principles and if we don’t stand up for them, they’ll go away,” Kuntz said of the constitutional amendments.
Kuntz said the conservative group is “very concerned about debt, especially at the federal level. With the pandemic that’s happened, it’s not getting better. It’s getting way worse. I think in the last 18 months, we’ve come close to doubling the money supply with federal spending related to the pandemic and the Federal Reserve’s actions to try to accommodate that.”
Kuntz added, “With all the debt and deficits we’ve had, we’re printing and borrowing and spending money that we truly do not have and can never repay. We think we’re headed for bankruptcy or will destroy our currency and that will be a true crisis. That would be so devastating.”
“And what are we doing at the federal and state level to prepare our citizenry or not be a part of that and try to be a part of the solution?” Kuntz asked.
“I think the first place it starts is to educate and meet the voters,” Kuntz said about raising awareness of conservative values. “In this case, I’m not talking only about Republican voters. Like the debt – that shouldn’t be a Republican concern; that should be a Democratic, Independent, Libertarian concern. We have to borrow or print the money to pay the interest on that debt. We’re mortgaging our kids’ future.”
“We’ll eventually try to support candidates that would truly stand up and truly commit to fighting for those larger principles,” Kuntz added.
Kuntz said the new board members plan to meet with the district’s executive committee “and get input from the five counties in our district,” adding plans for the time being “will be in the short term.”
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