Published January 14, 2022

Letter to the Editor

Written by
Jay Lundeen
| The Dakotan
In the opinion of Jay Lundeen
Jay Lundeen [Photo: submitted]
In the opinion of Jay Lundeen
Jay Lundeen [Photo: submitted]

What would you have done? 

Imagine our government telling a private organization (e.g. United Way) who they can hire for their management?  Our state legislators (our government) during a special session, starting November 8th, quickly forwarded and passed a bill giving the Chairman of the Republican Party of North Dakota (a private organization), the right to place temporary District Chairmen in eight Republican districts that were reorganized and changed because our population increased by over 100,000 people during the 2020 State Census. This increase and reorganization made these eight districts lose their current Chairman and Executive Committees, leaving those districts not represented by the vote of the local citizens. 

Our legislators passed the vote on the premise that these “temporary” Chairmen would just lead the re-organizing of the districts, normally taking place during reorganization meetings in January-March of 2022. At these reorganization meetings there is a vote by the local citizens in the districts, which is currently part of our bylaws, and would establish a new Chairman and Executive Committee in these districts. 

Instead of letting the process work as it has for many years and waiting for the reorganization meetings in January-March, our state Republican Chairman called a business meeting on the 18th of December. This meeting wasn’t just some housekeeping to work out how to best support these eight reorganized districts. It was described in the meeting's agenda to all the District Chairmen that this meeting could fundamentally change how we, the citizens of North Dakota, can run for office as Republicans and how we would vote for our Republican candidates.  

I reached out to the North Dakota Republican Party (NDGOP) Chairman saying, “Just let them have the people in those districts reorganize and vote in their own Chairman and Executive Committees so they have equal representation and are not represented by someone you appointed”.  The NDGOP Chairman told me he “couldn’t stop us, but the party wouldn’t recognize these district Chairman and their Executive Committees” that were voted in by the citizens of the districts. This set an unusual historical precedent and disenfranchised about 16,500 people in each of the eight reorganized districts (or 132,000 people total), several of these citizens are legal voting age Republican voters.  

What would you do? 

I, and a number of fellow district Republican Chairmen, were appalled by the decision to have a business meeting instead of an open meeting on December 18th.  Our group tried many times to reach out to the state Republican Executive Committee members, only hearing their basic rhetoric stating that “We are having the meeting.” The very day of the meeting we objected numerous times, attempting to table the meeting until the eight districts in question would have proper representation, voted in by the people of each district. This is guaranteed by our 1st Amendment!  

The Republican National Committee (RNC) sent their veteran Parliamentarian to run the December 18th meeting which had never been seen by even some party veterans. The NDGOP Chairman would lean to this Parliamentarian every time we made a motion and this RNC Parliamentarian would tell him we were out of order, time after time. Remember, we are all Republicans, and each of us district Chairmen were saying to each other that “This is crazy! The NDGOP Chairman won’t even let us give our reasons for not agreeing with our party’s current path”. The NDGOP Chairman and Committee had “their votes” so no need for debate. Once some of us district Chairmen saw our objections were futile, we decided that the eight districts in question, which no longer had a Chairman or Executive Committees, were not being properly represented and that made this an illegitimate meeting and infringed on the civil rights of fellow North Dakotans, we would not be culpable for this injustice and walked out of the meeting. Now there were 16, the eight of us who left the meeting and the eight not reorganized districts. Now 16 of the 47 voting districts in North Dakota were not legally represented, and over 264,000 North Dakotans, many Republican voters not represented. We thought our fellow Republicans would look at what had happened and table the meeting immediately. Instead, the NDGOP Chairman looked at me as I was leaving and said “Drive Safe”.   His arrogance was just amazing, and I was just dumbfounded by his disconnect. Then I realized something, he had the votes, and an attitude of win at all costs.  Even with 34% of the districts not represented, he thought it right to just move forward anyway changing the state party.  

Our Constitution gives us the rights, as Americans and then as Republicans, to free assembly. The NDGOP Chairman isn’t concerned with the Constitution.  How else can we look at his actions? After we left the room, during the same meeting, the NDGOP took away the voting rights of the Young Republicans (YR’s) in North Dakota!  Let’s tell the future of the Republican Party to be involved but you don’t have a vote anymore on the state committee. That makes no sense to us. They also made it more costly to run for office. Why does trying to run for office as a Republican need to cost a lot of money? These are good examples of WHY we walked out of the NDGOP meeting on the 18th… 

Pertinent context leading up to 18th December 2021.  

The NDGOP is a private organization of grassroots Republicans in our state. The NDGOP has its own rules and bylaws of how it functions. It also serves as a State Representative organization of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and all Republicans. This body, the NDGOP, functions as the beginning of the political process in our state and other states nationwide. Our state has 47 voting districts and in other states they might use counties or something similar. The fundamental point is the right of the citizens to assemble (1st Amendment) and vote to elect their representation from their neighborhoods in their communities. Those elected Chairmen of each district are closest to the people and should serve as a conduit between us and those we elect to serve our needs at the state level and the political process begins. These elected Chairmen and their Executive Committee’s then help to elect our Federal Representatives, one in Congress and two in the Senate. This all starts with the 47-district committee’s and their locally elected Chairman representing about 16,500 citizens in each district closest to them.  

Wow, the founders were smart to understand that the human condition doesn’t change as the generations come and go. This country was formed as one nation under God with a bottom-up society and a government we elect must uphold that sacred promise. Today, sadly, power and posturing now controls so much of our world. I always felt relief that I live in North Dakota, we could never get as crazy as Washington, D.C. and some of our major cities. Then I got involved to make sure this couldn’t happen here; the following might concern you…  

Originally, the NDGOP had our meeting scheduled for the 13th of November 2021.  Then about 48 hours before the meeting, the NDGOP Chairman cancelled the meeting. Remember the 1st day of the special session on the 8th November? On that same day, “We the People” had a rally at the North Dakota State Capitol. There were over 3,000 citizens at the Capitol steps in Bismarck, at noon, on a workday, with only six days of promotion!  Some said this was the largest rally at the capitol in our history.  This obviously got the attention of our elected officials in the Capitol building.  “We the People '' want proper representation of our values and principles. In the days that followed during the special session, our legislators “quickly” passed the bill giving our NDGOP Chairman the ability to choose the eight district Chairmen without the vote of the people. The Constitution, like the Ten Commandments, is in order of importance for a reason. The 1st Amendment, our right to assemble to elect our representation, is the fundamental principle of our nation! The meeting replacing the original November 13th to December 18th, was planned during that special session, in my opinion.  Sadly, even in our state politics, power of the few that have the “Votes”, along with loyalty to the party, is more important than “We the People”. The true Republican platform is what we follow, these folks talk about the platform then destroy it by their actions! That is why we walked out of the NDGOP meeting on the 18th of December 2021. What would you have done in the same position? 

The Courageous Seven:  

Lori Hinz National Committee Woman (RNC Representative)  

Bill Kuntz Chairman, District 14  

Jared Hendrix Chairman, District 38  

Mike Blessum Vice Chairman, District 5 (Proxy)  

Dan Johnston II Vice Chairman, District 24 (Proxy)   

Paul Henderson Former Chairman, District 10 (Proxy) New District 9B   

Reed Kramer Chairman, District 6   

And I, Jay Lundeen Chairman, District 40  

All are Patriots!!  I’m so proud to serve with such principled and bold North Dakotans. 

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