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Port: North Dakota Democrats divided

By Staff | Apr 21, 2017

There are sharp divisions among North Dakota Democrats, party insiders tell me, and not even Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is shielded from the food fighting.

On April 8, a Saturday, Democratic party activists traveled to Bismarck for a reorganization of the leadership of their party. Heitkamp, the only Democrat to win on North Dakota’s statewide ballot since 2008, addressed the crowd and got heckled.

I spoke with two party faithful who were in attendance at the event and confirmed that it happened.

Apparently some in the audience were unhappy with Heitkamp’s lack of support for single-payer health care. “It’s not happening,” Heitkamp reportedly told the crowd.

I reached out to Heitkamp’s office for comment, but they have not once responded to any of my requests for interviews or information over the years.

You may remember that during the Democratic National Committee convention last year, a group of North Dakota delegates approved what was described as a “harsh resolution” condemning Heitkamp, saying she was “disrespectful to the people of our great state” for supporting presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

With Democrats statewide reeling from election day losses in multiple cycles, and with Heitkamp likely to face stiff competition from Republicans for her 2018 re-election bid (should she choose to run), this is hardly an opportune time for intraparty squabbling.

Strong polling

While Heitkamp may not be popular in the eyes of at least a faction of her party, she’s doing pretty well overall. According to polling by Morning Consult, a research company, Heitkamp has a 60 percent approval rate among North Dakotans.

That makes her the 16th most-popular senator out of the 100 who serve in Washington D.C.

She comes in six spots behind Republican Sen. John Hoeven who enjoys a 65 percent approval rating.

Meanwhile, Gov. Doug Burgum seems to be off to a strong start in his first year in office.

According the same Morning Consult poll he’s enjoying a 69 percent approval rating, making him the third most-popular governor in America.

The polling was conducted in January through March of 2017. The company did not weigh the approval of members of the U.S. House.

It would have been interesting to see where Rep. Kevin Cramer is at.

College athletics

I haven’t made many friends by writing and talking about the heavy costs of collegiate athletics.

At the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University, the sports programs – even the extremely popular hockey and football programs – operate in the red as they are currently constituted.

These programs only continue thanks to subsidies paid by students and taxpayers.

I don’t expect much to change. Those who say I’m tilting and a windmill with my criticisms of the status quo are probably right.

That said, I’m glad we’ve begun to acknowledge that these costs are real.

Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.

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