BISMARCK—Six of the seven Republican district chairs who recently walked out of the state Republican committee meeting held a press conference in Bismarck this evening to explain their reasoning.
The protesting district chairs say they left Saturday’s meeting primarily because they believe the voters of North Dakota are being eliminated from a significant part of the process.
One concern that has been raised since the walkout was that the protesting district chairs themselves disenfranchised the voters in the districts they represent, leaving them with no voice at the party meeting. In his initial statement at this evening’s press conference, Jared Hendrix, GOP chair, Dis. 38, Minot, countered that claim, explaining, “We are making their voices heard by bringing to light the actions taken by party leadership to trample the rights of huge numbers of North Dakotans. Had we stayed and voted on these items, we would have given another victory to the ruling class over the people.”
“At no point was it contemplated that the State Party Chair would appoint temporary District Chairs, and then call a State Party Committee meeting and seat the temporary chairs to vote on sweeping changes to the way the Republican Party has operated for years.”Rep. Bob Paulson, R-Dis. 3, Minot
Bill Kuntz, chair, Dis. 14, Pierce County, after saying he left the meeting in order to not lend legitimacy to what he believed was an illegitimate meeting, also read a letter from Representative Bob Paulson, R-Dis. 3, Minot, who was not able to attend the press conference but had attended Saturday’s meeting as a proxy for District 3 chair. Rep. Paulson, though he stayed for the entirety of Saturday’s meeting, lent his support to the protesters in this press conference.
In his letter, Paulson wrote, “I voted in favor of the bill that empowered the State Party Chair to appoint temporary District Chairs for the purpose of facilitating the district reorganization process subsequent to the redistricting process. I spoke to the prime sponsor prior to voting for it and have since gone back and reviewed the committee hearing and House floor debate on the bill. At no point was it contemplated that the State Party Chair would appoint temporary District Chairs, and then call a State Party Committee meeting and seat the temporary chairs to vote on sweeping changes to the way the Republican Party has operated for years.”
Paulson’s letter continued, “The process that led to the proposed changes at Saturday’s meeting was not a deliberative or collaborative process. It was a top-down, authoritarian approach that proposed sweeping changes without the benefit of the voices of those duly elected by their districts to represent them. In addition to that, the changes were voted on by temporary District Chairs who were not duly elected by their Districts.”
The protesting district chairs who attended the press conference were accompanied by NDGOP National Committeewoman Lori Hinz, NDYR chair Daryle Mindeman, and concerned citizen Josey Milbradt, Bismarck.
Milbradt explained his own reasons for getting involved in this current dispute. He said, “I’m sick and tired of people telling me they’re running [for office] on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Republican party platform, then they get elected and stomp all over it.”
“You don’t fault the people who stood up to the problem. You fault the people who created the problem.” Jared Hendrix, chair, Dis. 38, Minot
In response to a question about whether this unprecedented protest would fracture the party, Jay Lundeen, chair, Dis. 40, stated, “Doing the right thing is never wrong, and what we’re doing is the right thing.” He continued, “It’s a battle for the soul of our state.”
Hendrix added, “If we are trying to correct a problem, we’re not the source of disunity.” He continued, “You don’t fault the people who stood up to the problem. You fault the people who created the problem.”
Watch the entire press conference on The Dakotan’s Facebook page.
For more background on the substance of these events, read about a few of the controversial amendments to party bylaws that were being proposed, the official party response to the walkout, and some of the immediate fallout with the North Dakota Young Republicans (NDYR).