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Port: Democrats to retreat to blue districts?

By Staff | May 12, 2017

North Dakota Democrats are hoping to make up some ground against the state’s dominant GOP in the 2018 cycle, and while Republican dysfunction during the legislative session this year may give them some effective ammunition, they have another obstacle in front of them.

Old age.

The 2016 election cycle saw many of the state’s younger Democratic office lose their seats in the Legislature. For instance, Mac Schneider and Kylie Oversen, the former Senate Minority Leader and current party chairwoman respectively, lost their seats representing a Grand Forks area district last year.

In Fargo Ben Hanson and Tyler Axness lost their seats in the House (Hanson) and Senate (Axness).

The Democrats lost some of their older, more well-established elected leaders as well, but the defeat of these younger liberals was ugly news for an already marginalized party.

Compounding the problem is that the Democrats who hold office in the state’s few reliably blue districts are getting a little long in the tooth. Some will almost certainly be retiring this election cycle, meaning Democrats will be forced to not only find talented and inspiring candidates to challenge Republican incumbents but also to hold their current seats.

This may inspire some younger Democrats to stage a strategic retreat to these blue districts. Schneider, specifically, has been the target of some of these rumors. He has bought a home in Fargo’s District 21 where Sen. Carolyn Nelson currently holds office. I’m told that Nelson may be retiring this cycle – she began her legislative career in the state House in 1987 – and that Schneider may run for the seat.

Schneider denied this when I spoke with him. He said there will be “one Schneider who runs for office in District 21, but it won’t be this Schneider.”

He was referring to his mother, Rep. Mary Schneider, who currently holds a seat in the House.

Schneider said the home purchase is just a rental, and that he won’t be on the ballot in 2018.

Complicating things is that Schneider’s wife is also an elected member of the city government in Grand Forks.

But 2018 is still a long way off, and Schneider may not be ready to announce his intentions yet. Nor is he the only Democrat rumored to be considering a move to a relatively safe blue district.

We’ll see what happens, but a rash of retiring Democratic incumbents may turn the 2018 cycle from one where the liberals could hope to enlarge their minority to one in which the best they can hope for is to maintain the status quo.

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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