Committee disagreement in ND Republican Party prompts walkout by district chairs
ND GOP leaders disagree over representation
Several district leaders who walked out of a Republican State Committee meeting Saturday over a dispute regarding representation have pledged to work to change the way the party does business.
Jay Lundeen, Republican chairman in Minot’s District 40, said the next step will be to alert residents across the state about concerns that exist with top-down leadership that is stifling grassroots involvement and take actions necessary to make things right.
“The goal is to make that meeting null and void – get rid of everything they did and do it the right way with the right people representing the people they should be representing. That is our goal – to take our state back,” he said.
At issue is representation on the Republican State Committee. The Legislature gave the party the ability to appoint to temporarily fill a leadership vacancy created by redistricting, and Saturday’s meeting included several appointed district chairs on the State Committee, which is comprised of the party’s executive committee along with the 47 district chairs.
Lundeen and others asked that the committee delay making major decisions until these districts reorganize and select leadership, which districts typically do in the first part of the new year. When the committee declined, Lundeen walked out, followed by six other district chairs and the Republican National Committeewoman.
“We needed to show them that we aren’t going to go along to get along anymore. We are going to stand and be firm and have guts to stand up for people who don’t know this is going on and can’t stand up for themselves,” Lundeen said.
“We were disappointed that a very small minority of protestors decided to leave and disenfranchise the Republicans in those districts. We will, of course, continue our efforts to reach out to them and work through differences in the spirit of unity that we are called to as Republicans here in North Dakota,” Party Chairman Perrie Schafer, Mandan, said in a statement issued following the meeting.
He later explained that a short timeframe existed to replace the 25% of chairs who were removed from their districts due to redistricting. Some districts found their own replacements, but about eight were appointed by the state party after working with the district’s elected representatives.
“The only districts that were not represented were the ones that walked out,” Schafer said. “Very sad to be elected or asked by the district chair in the form of a proxy to represent a district and that person leaves without representing those that elected them to be in the room.”
Jared Hendrix, chairman of District 38 in Minot, said the Legislature inappropriately established internal rules for a private group when it provided for the appointment of chairs within the Republican Party. The committee also acted improperly in utilizing appointments, he said.
“Therefore, we believe that the proceedings at the meeting were illegitimate,” said Hendrix, who joined the walk out. “It was not proper to conduct very important business where the members of our party in those districts did not have elected representation at that meeting.”
Hendrix said a number of others on the committee held the same view but chose not to walk but to stay and work within the process.
While raising the option of legal action over the matter, he prefers to see grassroots Republicans effect change.
“If they don’t like that, then they need to get involved in the party because the leadership that has made these decisions is elected in these local districts,” he said. “If there’s enough district chairs willing to reverse this, then all of this can be changed, and we can actually elect people who will protect the integrity of a private organization and hopefully push back on the idea that the state is dictating how a party runs its own internal process.”
In one debated decision, the committee voted to remove the North Dakota Young Republicans and the North Dakota College Republicans as voting members on the NDGOP State Committee and place them in ex-officio, non-voting status. The Young Republicans have had a seat on the Republican State Committee since 2019.
The decision was based on double representation for a district that has both a party chair and a Young Republicans chair voting on the committee. A proposal by District 2 Chairman Justin LaBar, White Earth, to remove other positions from the State Committee that also provide double representation was ruled out of order.
The Young Republicans issued a statement commending the committee for allowing it a nonvoting seat but noted a sadness over the double standard.
“It has become clear that the NDGOP State Committee desires complete control of the political process, including the youth of North Dakota. NDYR remains committed as ever to the principles of the Republican party that our country was founded upon. Yet it appears the NDGOP would choose power over potential allies,” the organization’s leadership team stated. Daryle Mindeman, Bismarck, is the Young Republicans’ chairman.
Schafer said the Young Republicans hold the same status as ex-officio members on the committee as the state’s congressional delegation.
“That was the decision of the committee after deliberation and debate by all the leaders in the room during the meeting,” he said. “There were no issues in our meeting other than a group of chairs and the National Committeewoman that decided it would be better to leave, disenfranchise their voters and not do the work of the state committee that they were asked to and elected to do.”
The committee also voted to continue the tradition of holding a Republican endorsing convention in the spring, rather than moving the convention to after the primary, a controversial proposal that failed to get the necessary two-thirds vote. The committee voted to add a few additional requirements for candidates seeking the NDGOP’s endorsement at its convention and to continue to consider party resolutions through a modified process.