District 40 chairman seeks to promote common ground
The new chairman of Minot’s District 40 Republican Party says he wants to promote common ground in the party.
However, the selection of Minot businessman Jay Lundeen in an uncontested election during District 40’s reorganizational meeting April 3 has troubled some in the party, who are wary of ultra-conservatives seeking control.
Rep. Randy Schobinger, R-Minot, who represents District 40, said the issue is uncertainty, because he wasn’t aware of Lundeen having reached out to any legislators or attended any previous District 40 events at which people might have gotten to know him.
“So frankly, I don’t really know if he’s Republican, Democrat or holds loyalty to another cause,” he said.
Rep. Matt Ruby, R-Minot, also District 40, said he wishes the reorganization had gone differently.
“As nice as it is to have people getting involved, new members seemed to ignore the work the existing committee has done. My worry is that with the way they came in and replaced everyone on the executive team, we will lose those members who have devoted so much of their time over the last couple decades,” he said. “The new team has some big shoes to fill and I am willing to work with whoever is in leadership, but I think they could have come in and gotten involved and made change without clearing out our existing team.”
Lundeen said he has long financially supported Republican candidates, although only recently have his family and business interests allowed him time to become actively involved. He said his push will be for common Republican values of equality, individual responsibility, less government, lower taxes and basic liberties.
His entry into grassroots activism was met out of the gate with Minot blogger Rob Port calling the situation in District 40 “alarming.” Port, who has written of his concerns over the Bastiat movement in North Dakota, warned of its inroads into local party control, suggesting District 40 has been targeted.
The Bastiat Caucus is an unofficial, voluntary association of legislators within the North Dakota State House and Senate, founded by Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, in 2013. The caucus lists its focus as promoting maximum personal and economic liberty, although it has taken certain positions not supported by the traditional party.
Lundeen said he was unaware of the Bastiat until recently looking into the group. He said District 40 party leadership will not advocate an association with the organization.
The suggestion that District 40 is moving farther right stemmed in part from a motion at the district meeting to censure House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington. Pollert played a role in the expulsion of Rep. Luke Simons, R-Dickinson, who was accused of sexual harassment. Simons was a Bastiat Caucus member. House members who objected to expulsion cited lack of due process.
Lundeen agrees there was a lack of due process in the Simons case, but he said the motion during the District 40 meeting to censure Pollert wasn’t related to the Simons incident. Lundeen had the censure motion tabled.
“I don’t feel that we are going to censure someone from another district that is not our own,” he said. “We are not planning on censuring Rep. Pollert.”
Schobinger said the “connect the dots” Port made between the expulsion of Simons and the district’s new leadership are quite credible, he said, although he added Lundeen’s decisions going forward will be telling.
Lundeen said he wants to bring people of shared values together and eliminate focus on narratives that serve only to divide people.
“As the District 40 chairman, I think it’s very important that the information that people receive is truthful and very transparent,” he said. “And I believe, in our state anyway, that we are good people. We’re good neighbors. We’re good stewards. We’re good families, and I think a lot of us share very much the same values.”
He said Minot Area Republicans are pursuing ways to increase information available to community members about what is happening at different levels of government to clear the air and get past divisive, nonsensical arguments. That type of information can help both Republicans and Democrats, he said.
“The problem is the discourse in today’s world, even in our local politics is so great, even within our party,” he said. “I want to let people decide what they want to believe and how they want to be governed. So we’re going to provide that information, and it’s going to be facts.”
District 40’s leadership also wants to focus on the big issues that define North Dakota, Lundeen said.
“Those things we’re going to fight hard for,” he said. “I’m a new face, a different approach and definitely an advocate for Republicans. But I’m more of an advocate for common sense conservativism.”