North Dakota's governor is retiring and why you should care

North Dakota’s Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple has announced that he will not be seeking reelection next year when his current term expires. He’s leaving office, not under some cloud of scandal or suspicion, but as one of the most popular governors in the country, with approval ratings consistently in the 60% or above range. Even the Democrats in the state are quick to note that he’s been a fair negotiator and a tough opponent to criticize too harshly. Dalrymple has overseen a booming energy industry and his state enjoyed record low unemployment even as the rest of the nation languished. But apparently he’s just ready to conclude a long career of public service. (WDAY News)

“Here’s a guy who has given public service for 30 years, didn’t need to, he’s a successful farmer and businessman outside of politics,” said state senator Lonne Laffen, a republican from Grand Forks.

Monday the 66 year old said it’s time to call it a career. He is looking forward to spending more time with his family. His last day will be December 15th, 2016. Until then the republican remains committed to working hard for the people of the state. Dalrymple feels the state has made great progress with him at the top.

“The real test of whether we’ve done well will be when the day comes that the economy slows down, and people can see that we have planned well and we can get through any kind of slow down easily,”

It’s a nice story but not normally one that would merit a lot of coverage outside of the Peace Garden State. However, with Jack stepping aside things just got interesting on a couple of levels. Who will run to replace him? North Dakota is a fairly deep red state and the GOP has no shortage of folks on the bench who may take up the call, including the Lt. Governor and the Attorney General. But the Democrats really only have one star player who might stand a chance… junior Senator Heidi Heitkamp.

It’s no secret that Heitkamp has coveted the Governor’s seat. She ran for the office in 2000, losing to John Hoeven. But if she chooses to go for it there will be an opening in the Senate. The Democrats are still hanging on to some slim hopes of retaking the Senate and they can’t afford to be giving up any seats. The odds of another Democrat arising and taking her Senate seat are probably slim to none. Heitkamp is something of a unique, independent character in North Dakota as opposed to a party line Democrat, and even then she only won her 2010 election by less than 3,000 votes. That’s not the sort of miracle you rely on happening every Christmas.

So will she go for it? What’s good for Heidi in this case may be very bad for the Democrats in Washington. She’s not giving any indication either way so far, but she’s got to be thinking about it seriously. In the meantime, I’ll just offer my thanks to Jack Dalrymple for his service and wish him the best of luck in his retirement years.