Published March 9, 2023

An Open Letter to The Forum’s (Fargo) Rob Port  

Written by
The Dakotan
| The Dakotan

March 8, 2023  

Dear Rob,  

I’m writing this letter to clear up a number of inaccuracies that you’ve recently published in your columns in relation to myself and the District 2 Republicans. It’s terribly unfortunate that your integrity is so severely lacking that you apparently don’t even bother taking the time to try and get all the facts.  

I learned long ago that saying or publishing inaccuracies about a person can take place in a matter of seconds, minutes, sentences, or paragraphs. Setting the record straight or repairing the damage done by such things takes much more effort and is often impossible. You should keep that in mind when you do what you do. Or maybe you have and you just don’t care?  

I’ll begin by addressing point by point the mischaracterizations and inaccuracies from your article dated March 8th, “A Republican Party Dedicated to Defeating… Other Republicans?”.  

1. You continue to frame your articles about me as being one who is “Donald Trump-aligned”. It’s amazing that you pretend to know so much about me when, in fact, you obviously know so little. Did you know that I didn’t support Donald Trump in 2016? You should have. I was a Ted Cruz supporter at the 2016 North Dakota Republican State Convention, and you were there. After Trump won the nomination, I couldn’t bring myself to vote for him. I’ll not explain my reasons as to why, but I didn’t. It was something I was pretty vocal about on Facebook back then. In case you’re wondering, I DID NOT vote for Hillary Clinton either. By the time the 2020 election rolled around, I did cast my ballot for President Trump. He gained enough of my trust on the issues to feel comfortable doing that. And I sure as heck wasn’t going to vote for Joe Biden. After all, I’m a Republican. In addition to all of this, Donald Trump isn’t my candidate of choice heading into 2024 either. While I think he’d still be better than anything the Democrats can put up for a candidate, I think it’s time for Republicans to move on. I know that some of my Republican friends won’t like hearing that, but that’s how I feel. Your readers wouldn’t know that by how you mischaracterized me.  

2. You claim in your article that plans have been announced to “break [the] district party off from the statewide NDGOP, and to campaign against elected Republicans.” First of all, you made a horrible mistake by trusting the reporting of the Tioga Tribune. Not only do they have a reputation for being a bit on the liberal side of things (their editor is a former Democratic candidate for the state legislature), but they’ve misreported about me in the past too. To the point that I had to write a rebuttal debunking their inaccuracies as well. The idea that we’re breaking off from the state party is lunacy. I never announced such a thing. In fact, we passed new District Rules at the meeting that include a section on our purpose. Guess what #1 in that section is? “To promote – and foster loyalty to – the ideals of the North Dakota Republican Party.” In the final section of those rules, they also state that our meetings “shall be governed by the District 2 Rules, the North Dakota Republican Party’s Rules, and Robert's Rules of Order”. Kind of a funny statement to include if we’re breaking off from the NDGOP, don’t you think?  

3. Your quote from Mr. Orledge and the Tioga Tribune makes it appear as though I called the entirety of the state party leadership an “embarrassment”. That’s not accurate. My comment in regards to that was specifically towards our State Party Chair, Perrie Schafer, not the entirety of the state party leadership.  

4. My work schedule did determine the scheduling of our reorganization meeting. First of all, that “disaster” at my “business venture”, that Senator Rust mentioned, is a reality. I have a new hobby business (more hobby than business at this point). Due to a broken water line, I ended up with 5.5 feet of water in the basement of the building I work out of. This happened right at reorg time. And I’m still dealing with the aftermath of it. In addition, I work three other jobs and have other responsibilities as well. Both state law and our District Rules say that I determine the date of the meetings, not the legislators. Furthermore, I had to chair the meeting, not them.  

5. In your effort to “read between the lines”, you speculate that I have “political aspirations of [my] own, including running for the Legislature.” Again, you pretend to know so much about me when, in fact, you know so little. While our Secretary did make an off-handed comment in her brief acceptance speech about me being in the legislature some day, it was done in a complimentary way while showing appreciation for her time in serving with me. When she said it, I shook my head no. I’ve been asked a number of times over the years to run for office and my answer has been the same each time— “No.” There’s a number of reasons for that, but chief among them is that my first priority is as a husband and father of 11 children. The issue was most certainly not “openly discussed during the district’s convention”. Your claim of “personal ambition” is bunk. 

6. You claim that I am “actively campaigning against the Republican lawmakers [my] district elected.” Rob, there’s no campaign going on because it’s not election season. But those same legislators you referred to campaigned against me in my bid for reelection as District Chair back in 2021. That is when things really began to change in our district. I was baffled that they allowed themselves to be drug into the statewide hoopla that was going on with reorgs at the time. I had supported them, voted for them, and even defended them. As you say, Rob, who is the divider, again? Who stabbed who in the back?  

7. You accuse me of not really being a Republican. This is laughable. Not only am I a Republican, but I’m quite comfortable putting my Republicanism up against the voting records of our lawmakers (both state and federal) any time. Just because you think the “tent” should be so big that our party essentially stands for nothing, doesn’t mean I have to share in that belief. Nor does it mean I’m not a Republican. Your claim is irrational.  

8. You claim that I’m “comfortable with the politics of violent rhetoric and intimidation”. This is outright baseless lunacy. And, in fact, there’s no better illustration that you don’t know me. When have I ever advocated for violent rhetoric or supported intimidation? Good luck finding an example. It simply doesn’t exist. Unless you believe what the Tioga Tribune completely misreported and had to be corrected for.  

It seems as though you think I should kiss the rings of our State Party Chair, state legislators, and representation in DC simply because they were elected by the people. Are they somehow beyond reproach by virtue of their offices or because of vote totals or lack of opposition? I don’t believe they are. In fact, I don’t believe that about any elected official. Not even the “darling” Rep. Rick Becker that you refer to. Instead, I think we need to reestablish the proper relationship between the people and those we elect. In other words, they are our servants, not the other way around.  

When it comes to the District 2 legislators and our representation in DC, I’ve voted for all of them in the past. And I’ll consider doing so again. But in the meantime, I reserve the right to speak out when I feel any one of them is off course or could do better. Why? Because I believe that the things we say that we believe as Republicans should matter. After all, I pay my dues to an organization with a stated purpose. How am I the bad guy when I expect those we elect as Republicans to actually act like Republicans?  

Now, to be very clear, I’m not satisfied with our State Party Chair. I said that I believe he should be replaced, and I stand by that. Honestly, there’s much more that should be said.  

As you’ve often told others, Rob— Do better. 

Sincerely, Justin LaBar 

White Earth

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