Will Democrats cross over to spoil Republican gubernatorial race?

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Posted 4/05/16 (Tue)

Whines & Roses
By Cecile Wehrman

I’ve floated the idea to a few people that Democrats could easily decide which Republican will advance to the general election for governor of North Dakota.
If significant numbers of Democrats want to, they can go Republican on the primary ballot with no consequences for their candidate, who automatically advances to the General Election anyway.
No matter which side I talk to, no one likes the idea much. I have the feeling I have bumped up against a sacred cow and that it’s probably political suicide to suggest such a thing.
Having run twice -- unsuccessfully -- as a Democrat candidate for the North Dakota House, I don’t have much concern about my own political future.
I have come to the conclusion the chances of a Democrat getting elected to the legislature in District 2 is not going to change in my lifetime. Our district simply has so many Republicans I explain it this way -- “I cannot represent District 2 because I am not representative of District 2.”
And District 2 is like a microcosm of the whole state. We have had a super majority of Republicans in our legislature for almost as long as it’s been since I first ran for office -- 1992 -- the same year our last Democrat governor, Bud Sinner, left office.
It’s no surprise that Democrats will lament how bad it is for the state when one party has absolute control over the government. I’ve heard lots of Republicans say this too, which is a nice gesture, since they’re not likely to lose control any time soon.
So, as a Democrat with zero political clout -- no one I voted for other than Heidi Heitkamp has been elected in years -- why should I vote at all?
Many Democrats might find the answer to that question in choosing to vote for  Doug Burgum in the Primary.
That’s a dicey proposition on a couple of fronts: 1. because, prior to Burgum entering the race, Wayne Stenehjem was the first Republican candidate for governor in years that some Democrats could live with. He’s a genuine and caring person -- someone dedicated to justice and fairness. And 2., because Divide County native Beth Stenehjem would make a great first lady!
Then there’s poor Marvin Nelson, a very nice Democrat, I have no doubt. 
If Doug Burgum has a name recognition problem (this sort of makes me laugh because if you’ve paid any attention to news in North Dakota in the past 30 years, you couldn’t miss hearing his name from time to time) then Nelson is the equivalent of invisible.
Even Ryan Taylor, a candidate as solid as they come, with good name recognition couldn’t win the governor’s seat in the last cycle. Hands down, he had to have been Dems’ best hope in ages and he could not get elected.
So it seems unlikely Democrats are likely to be backing a winning horse this time around. That’s not to say things may not change between June and November -- Dems can always hope -- but in the Primary, the votes cast by Democrats in this cycle could actually mean something.
There are at least two ways Democrats can look at this -- either as a strictly spoiler move aimed at robbing Republicans of the chance to elect their nominee; or, as a chance to advance someone whose philosophies -- at least on social issues -- appear to be less conservative.
Democrats always seem to go for the “outsider” anyway and Burgum, though a tad more flush financially than any Democrats I know, is most definitely an outsider.
If you’re a Democrat and you believe, like Stenehjem, that there’s never been a better time to be a North Dakotan, then you probably won’t cross party lines. 
If you question the wisdom of that claim, you have a tough choice to make.