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Plain Talk

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Plain Talk is a podcast hosted by Rob Port and Chad Oban focusing on political news and current events in North Dakota. Port is a columnist for the Forum News Service published in papers including the Fargo Forum, Grand Forks Herald, Jamestown Sun, and the Dickinson Press. Oban is a long-time political consultant.

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United States

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Plain Talk is a podcast hosted by Rob Port and Chad Oban focusing on political news and current events in North Dakota. Port is a columnist for the Forum News Service published in papers including the Fargo Forum, Grand Forks Herald, Jamestown Sun, and the Dickinson Press. Oban is a long-time political consultant.

Twitter:

@robport

Language:

English

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7012144517


Episodes
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511: 'You can't take these things seriously'

6/14/2024
North Dakota's primary elecitons this year were brutal. Attack ads and dirty tricks are endemic to politics, but I think most people would admit that, by the standards of our state, the Republican campaigns in this cycle were rough. In legislative races, we saw ads suggesting that some incumbent lawmakers promote pornography to children, or that they would be unsafe to allow your children around. In the U.S. House primary, some unknown entity supporting Rick Becker's campaign was sending out text messages trying to fool voters into thinking Julie Fedorchak, who ultimately won that race, had pulled out. And in the gubernatorial race, Tammy Miller's campaign ran ads accusing Kelly Armstrong of enriching himself by helping child molesters avoid justice. But when Armstrong appeared on this episode of Plain Talk to recap the race, he shrugged the attacks off. "You can't take these things seriously," he told me and my co-host Corey Mock. Armstrong now faces Democratic-NPL candidate Merrill Piepkorn in the general election, but we asked him, if he should win in November, what the top priorities of his administration would be. "Property taxes," he said, pointing out that consternation about those tax bills are running so high that a ballot measure to abolish them, which may appear on the November ballot as well, could well pass. "If it passes, you have a real problem," he said. Armstrong said another problem is access to labor. He said past political leaders in North Dakota have campaigned on creating jobs, but that doesn't make a lot of sense right now. "We have 30,000 open jobs," he said. "Campaigning on jobs is great...trying to figure out how to get people here to take them is a harder conversation." Also, in this episode, Mock and I discussed the seemingly intractable problem of property taxes, and what the primary election results mean for the future of the divide in the North Dakota Republican Party. Want to subscribe to Plain Talk? Search for the show wherever you get your podcasts, or click here for more information.

Duration:01:07:42

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510: Julie Fedorchak recaps U.S. House primary win

6/12/2024
"We knew we wanted to stay positive and above board," Republican U.S. House nominee Julie Fedorchak said on this episode of Plain Talk. Fedorchak just emerged from a bruising competition against former state lawmaker Rick Becker and three other candidates with a resounding victory. She received nearly 50% of the vote in a five-way race. The race was a nasty one. In the final days text messages in support of Becker (thought he candidate has denied involvement) disseminated false information, including the bogus claim that Fedorchak had withdraw from the race. Fedorchak told me and co-host Chad Oban that she heard reports from poll workers saying voters were showing up thinking she wasn't still a valid candidate on the ballot. Fedorchak says her campaign plans to pursue their complaint with the Federal Election Commission over what she described as "election fraud," as well as possible legal action. That sort of campaigning is "bad for your overall cause," Fedorchak told us. "It's bad for conservatism." Also on this episode, Oban and I talk about Kelly Armstrong's resounding victory over Tammy Miller in the gubernatorial primary, as well as victories for traditional Republican candidates in legislative primaries around the state. Our conclusion? Last night, voters rejected ugly, populist, culture war campaigning, and it was an act of civic hygiene. To subscribe to Plain Talk, search for the show wherever you get your podcasts, or click here for more information.

Duration:00:56:23

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509: Our predictions for North Dakota's 2024 primary election

6/7/2024
Will a ballot measure putting age limits on North Dakota's congressional delegation, and printing candidate ages on the ballot, be approved by voters? Will MAGA-aligned populists gain ground against traditional Republican legislators in the North Dakota Republican party's primaries? Who will win the NDGOP's primaries for governor and U.S. House? Can Democratic-NPL candidates across the state build enough momentum to be competitive in the general election? My co-host Chad Oban and I make our predictions on this episode of Plain Talk. On our next show, on Wednesday, we'll either be gloating because we were right, or eating our hats. Want to subscribe to Plain Talk? Search for the show wherever you get your podcasts, or click here for more information.

Duration:00:54:42

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508: 'We need to do away with some of this Washington D.C. politics'

6/5/2024
Due to a scheduling mix-up with Attorney General Drew Wrigley -- he was coming on to discuss North Dakota's legal position in redistricting lawsuits -- this episode of Plain Talk was truncated. Still, despite the shorter show, we covered some good ground. Me and my co-host Chad Oban talked about the top election official in one of North Dakota's most populous counties winning a gift from U.S. House candidate Rick Becker's campaign. We also had Bismarck resident Lance Hagen on to discuss his FEC complaint against state Rep. Brandon Prichard and his federal political action committee Citizens Alliance of North Dakota, which has been running some wildly inaccurate ads and, Hagen alleges, may be violating federal rules on independent candidates colluding with candidates. Hagen also said he's concerned about Rep. Prichard shuffling money between political committees he's founded, arguing that money may be used for purposes the donors didn't intend. Want to subscribe to Plain Talk? Search for the show wherever you get your podcasts, or click here for more information.

Duration:00:34:36

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507: A heated conversation with Kelly Armstrong about Donald Trump's conviction

5/31/2024
When we booked U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong for this episode of Plain Talk, we weren't planning on talking about Donald Trump. The plan was to get Armstrong's reactions to polls showing a prohibitive lead for him over Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller in the Republican gubernatorial primary. The plan was to discuss the debate the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce just hosted between him and Miller. But then a New York jury convicted Trump on 34 criminal counts, and we were obliged to talk to Armstrong about it. All the more so because, just hours before the jury handed down that verdict, Trump had endorsed Armstrong in the primary. It was a respectful but heated conversation -- neither I nor my co-host Chad Oban are Trump fans -- but I'm glad we had it. And one thing I appreciate about Armstrong is that you can have vigorous disagreements with him, and it's never personal. Armstrong, a former criminal defense attorney, addressed some of the legal arguments around the case. My argument? I'm worried that the particulars of the legal arguments cause us to gloss over the grotesque behavior from Trump that's at the heart of the case. Namely, the fact that he paid off multiple porn stars to cover up extra-marital affairs, and colluded with a notorious tabloid to capture and kill negative stories about him. We didn't just talk about Trump, though. We also covered the debate, property taxes, and child care. Want to subscribe to Plain Talk? Search for the show wherever you get your podcasts, or click here for more information.

Duration:01:04:44

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506: Alex Balazs talks House race

5/29/2024
U.S. House candidate Alex Balazs is still set on winning. On this episode of Plain Talk, he told me and co-host Chad Oban that he plans to finish the last two weeks of his primary campaign strong. There will be ads and billboards and travel, and the candidate, who received the North Dakota Republican Party's convention endorsement in April, thinks he can win, despite polls showing him in a distant 4th place. But if he doesn't, would he stay involved in politics? "I just don't know," he said. Balazs also took questions about Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York, with its looming verdict, and the level of assistance he's received from the North Dakota Republican Party. "They've been really good at helping," he said. Also on this episode, Chad and I discuss the recent polling in the Republican House and gubernatorial primaries, dirty campaigning in legislative races, and more. To subscribe to Plain Talk, search for the show wherever you get your podcasts, or click here for more information.

Duration:01:04:01

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505: 'People are fed up'

5/24/2024
"I've been an outside viewer," Dustin McNally, a Republican candidate for the state Senate in Grand Forks-area District 42, said on this episode of Plain Talk. "I haven't really liked what I've seen. McNally was speaking about what he's been seeing from North Dakota's Legislature. "It's a lot of negative news. It's a lot of changes in the Republican party, and not for the better," he said. "I feel like they're not working for me," he added. "I feel like they're working for themselves." "People are fed up, he continued." McNally says he'd like to see more focus on pragmatic issues, and less on dramatic culture war topics. "I'm a frugal, fiscally conservative person," he said. "I'm not a headline grabber." Also on this episode, me and co-host Chad Oban talk about the ominous silence coming from Epic Companies, a West Fargo-based company with projects in just about all of North Dakota's major communities that is widely rumored to be in distress but isn't being forthcoming with information. We also discussed the state of the Republican U.S. House primary, and how certain legislative races around the state may impact North Dakota's balance of political power. To subscribe to Plain Talk, search for the show wherever you get your podcasts, or click here for more information.

Duration:00:57:52

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504: Coal industry endorses Fedorchak

5/22/2024
U.S. House candidate Rick Becker recently took the unusual step of paying internet personality and trans rights activist Dylan Mulvaney to record a message praising the energy record of his primary rival, Public Service Commisisoner Julie Fedorchak. The message was done tongue-in-cheek -- though it hasn't sat well with some elements of the MAGA movement who take exception to Becker working with Mulvaney in even a joking way -- but Becker used it to attack Fedorchak's record on coal issues. "What’s not a laughing matter is how time and again Julie Fedorchack placed radical green energy proposals above the coal industry here in North Dakota," he wrote. That may have been a mistake. North Dakota's coal industry noticed Becker's stunt, and it has prompted them to endorse Fedorchak in the race. "That is a statement I can't even wrap my head around," Jason Bohrer, the president of the North Dakota Lignite Energy Council and chair of Lignite's political action committee, said on this episode of Plain Talk. "I don't understand where that statement comes from," he added. Bohrer told me and co-host Chad Oban that Lignite doesn't typically endorse in partisan primaries, but they feel this situation is different. "This is a place where we have to be clear," Bohrer said. "We do support Julie." He made it clear that the organization is endorsing Fedorchak in the race. Bohrer said he didn't want to spend a lot of time "attacking" Becker's record on coal issues while serving in the Legislature, but he did say that Becker "has never been supportive" of the industry's priorities on research and development. "We had a group of legislators we would go to for those things," Bohrer added. "He wasn't in it." Also on this episode, state Rep. Michelle Strinden, who is running for Lt. Governor alongside gubernatorial candidate Kelly Armstrong, took questions about being chosen as a running mate, the state of the race, and top issues like education and property taxes. Want to subscribe to Plain Talk? Search for the show wherever you get your podcasts, or click here for more information.

Duration:01:01:38

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503: 'Absolutely underhanded and unethical'

5/17/2024
A civil war is playing out in the North Dakota Republican Party between traditionally conservative Republicans and MAGA-aligned populists. One front in that war is the NDGOP's legislative primaries, where a group called Citizens Alliance of North Dakota is trying to defeat traditional Republicans. State Rep. Brandon Prichard, a Republican from Bismarck, is the executive director of Citizens Alliance. His group has been sending mailers to voters suggesting that its preferred candidates in the primaries are backed by incumbents who do not support actually them. One of the candidates targeted by these tactics, Rep. Jeremy Olson, a first-termer from District 26 who is seeking another term in the state House, joined this episode of Plain Talk. He called Prichard's tactics "absolutely underhanded and unethical. Also, on this episode, guest co-host Ben Hanson and I and discuss former Fargo Mayor Jon Lindgren's argument that Gov. Doug Burgum is seeking to be disgraced former President Donald Trump's runningmate for the sake of being a moderating influence. Want to subscribe to Plain Talk? Search for the show wherever you get your podcasts, or click here for more information.

Duration:01:03:01

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502: 'I'm the only candidate that has consistently been a Republican'

5/15/2024
"I like debates," Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorhcak told me and co-host Chad Oban on this episode of Plain Talk. Fedorchak has come under fire from some of her opponents in the Republican U.S. House primary. Three of them — Rick Becker, Cara Mund, and Alex Balazs — participated in a recent debate sponsored by BEK Television. Fedorchak did not. "Last weekend was a balancing act," she said, noting that she's already participated in one debate with her opponents, with two more planned. She told us that the night of the debate was also her son's graduation party. "I wanted to devote my attention to my son on Friday night," she said. Fedorchak also responded to a recent independent poll I reported on, which shows her in a dead heat with Becker in the race (Mund is trailing as a distant third). She said she got into the race late and had a deficit in name identification with voters but that the poll "shows that we closed the gap" with Becker. She added that she feels confident about her position in the race. "I'm the only candidate who has consistently been a Republican," she said, referencing the fact that both Mund and Becker campaigned against Republicans as independents last cycle. "I have strong favorability in the polling we've seen," she added. That's something Dean Mitchell of DFM Research, who conducted the survey for North Dakota United, spoke about as well in a separate interview. Mitchell said the House race is tight but favors Fedorchak. "I'd rather not be Becker," he said. "I think he's at his ceiling. I think she (Fedorchak) has more room for growth." "I'd give the edge to Fedorchak," he added, though he acknowledged that the race is very close. "I wouldn't put much money on it." The NDU poll also covered the gubernatorial race, showing current U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong with a 38-point lead over Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller, a nearly identical result to numbers released to me by the Armstrong campaign from a contemporaneous poll. "I don't want to say you can put a fork in it," Mitchell said, "but the silverware is on the table." To subscribe to Plain Talk, search for the show wherever you get your podcasts, or click here for more information.

Duration:00:57:08

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501: Anti-Becker mailers and governor's race polling

5/10/2024
Pat Finken is a long-time political consultant in North Dakota who now heads up an independent political action committee called the Brighter Future Alliance. Finken and his group have come under fire from U.S. House candidate Rick Becker and his allies for mailers attacking Becker and his voting record. Finken joined this episode of Plain Talk my me and my co-host Chad Oban, and said his goal is to reveal for the public that Becker is a "show pony." "He is not a serious legislator," Finken added. As for Becker's response to his group's mailers? "This is what all politicians do when someone criticizes them," Finken said. "They play the victim." Becker has disputed Finken's assertions that, by voting against budgets for the North Dakota Highway Patrol and the North Dakota National Guard, he opposes law enforcement and the military. He argues that it's possible to object to a budget without objecting to what that budget funds. But Finken says the difference is that Becker was only voting no, not working to improve those budgets. "He didn't come back with an alternative," Finken said. "If he was a serious legislator he would have worked to make changes," he added. Also, on this episode, Oban and I discuss the recent polling released in the Republican guberantorial primary showing U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong with a massive lead over Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller. Want to subscribe to Plain Talk? Search for the show wherever you get your podcasts, or click here for more information.

Duration:01:03:12

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500: A renewed legal battle over redistricting and teacher pay

5/8/2024
The State of North Dakota is back in court over redistricting. This time, the state is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a lower court decision that the state had previously argued for. Specifically, the dismissal of a lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of legislative subdistricts created by lawmakers in an attempt to enhance the state's Native American vote in two districts. The courts ended up striking down that map anyway and replacing it with a new one, but this separate legal action questions whether creating subdistricts in just two districts passes muster under the 14th amendment's equal protection provisions. Is it constitutional for some North Dakotans to vote for just two members of the Legislature on election day, while others get to vote for three? Robert Harms, an attorney (and a Republican candidate for the state Senate in District 2) joined this episode of Plain Talk to discuss the case. Also on this episode, Nick Archuleta, the president of North Dakota United, joined to discuss a recent study looking at teacher pay which indicates that North Dakota is moving down the rankings in terms of average salaries for educators. To subscribe to Plain Talk, search for the show wherever you get your podcasts, or click here for more information.

Duration:01:03:11

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499: 'I don't look for racism'

5/3/2024
Racial incidents keep happening at North Dakota school events. At basketball games. Proms. Hockey games. Part of the problem is, we don't know if they're happening more, or less. Maybe we're just noticing them more now that everyone has a smartphone in their pocket and the ability to document the taunts and jeers and boorish behavior. State Rep. Jayme Davis is a Democrat from District 9a, which covers the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation. In the state House of Representatives, she's the minority caucus leader. She wants to do something about this problem. "I don't look for racism. That's not something I look for in my daily life," she said on this episode of Plain Talk. "But it shows up." During the 2023 session, Davis introduced a resolution calling for a study of racial incidents at North Dakota school events. It passed, but the the Legislature's interim committees chose not to take it up. But she says she's not going to stop trying. She'd like to see data collected about these incidents, to measure the scope of the problem, and she'd also liked to see more training for the state's educators, sports officials, and even lawmakers. Also on this episode, are North Dakota's political leaders being too tough on electric vehicles? And what was with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem bragging about killing a dog? Me and co-host Chad Oban discuss. Want to subscribe to Plain Talk? Search for the show wherever you get your podcasts, or click here for more information.

Duration:01:07:08

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498: ND coal industry distances itself from Summit carbon pipeline project

5/1/2024
"I'm sympathetic to what they're doing while recognizing there's a better way to do it." Those are the words of Jason Bohrer, president of the North Dakota Lignite Energy Council, and advocacy and lobbying group that represents the state's coal industry. He was speaking on this episode of Plain Talk about the Midwest Carbon Express pipeline proposed by Summit Carbon Solutions. That project has no ties to the coal industry. Rather, it seeks to bring carbon emissions gathered from ethanol plans across the upper midwest to North Dakota where it would be buried underground. Bohrer joined the program to discuss the controversy around the North Dakota Republican Party's resolution branding carbon capture as "fascism." The resolution had appeared to have been passed at the party's state convention earlier this month, but after a recount, it turns out it failed. But Bohrer says Lignite's larger concern is that public backlash against Summit's project may turn into generalized opposition against the concept of carbon capture. "An individual project differs from a technological opportunity," he said. "We're going to take a long term view," he added. Also on this episode, two board members from the North Dakota Association for Justice joined to discuss consternation in North Dakota's legal circles over Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller's gubernatorial campaign saying some ugly things about lawyers. "Politicians and trial lawyers often struggle with the truth," is a quote Miller spokesman Dawson Schefter gave me for an article about their campaign ad attacking their opponent in the Republican primary. "Kelly Armstrong is both, so it’s no surprise he lies about his opponent and his opponent’s ads." The NDAJ fired back, calling those comments "ill-informed and ignorant." Then Schefter came back again. “It’s no surprise lawyers and politicians are sticking up for each other," he told me in response to the NDAJ's statement. "While Kelly Armstrong was raking in cash defending drug dealers, a man who beat his wife unconscious, and a man who attempted to suffocate his daughter — Tammy Miller was growing a company and creating thousands of jobs. Job creator or trial lawyer is an easy choice.” "Frankly, we were offended," attorney Tatum O'Brien said. "She probably has a failing campaign," attorney Tim O'Keefe added by way of explaining why Miller's campaign would launch the attack. Both O'Brien and O'Keefe are board members of the NDAJ, and say that attorneys do important work defending the rights of citizens in court, from the 4th amendment protections against illegal search and seizure to our 7th amendment right to seek a jury trial in matters of civil law. Want to subscribe to Plain Talk? Search for the show wherever you get your podcasts, or click here for more information.

Duration:01:34:27

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497: Will ND voters legalize recreational marijuana?

4/26/2024
Marijuana is already legal in North Dakota. At least for medicinal reasons. But the backers of a new ballot measure want recreational use of marijuana to be legal as well. The campaign is calling itself New Economic Frontier. Their measure was just approved by the North Dakota Secretary of State's office for circulation. They have until July 8 to get it on the November ballot, though if they miss that deadline they'll still have a year from the date they began collecting signatures to qualify for the next statewide vote. Steve Bakken, the former mayor of Bismarck, and current member of the Burleigh County Commission, joined this episode of Plain Talk to discuss the measure. North Dakotans have said no to recreational marijuana before, though the "no" side of the argument has been shrinking. In 2018, just over 40% of voters cast their ballots for a proposal to legalize. In 2021, another legalization proposal passed in the state House of Representatives on a 56-38 vote, though it failed in the state Senate with just 10 Senators approving it. In 2022, just over 45% of voters cast a ballot for another legalization proposal. Bakken says that's progress, and they're relying on it to get this measure over the finish line, though Bakken says he isn't planning on partaking if it's successful. "I'm not interested in using it," he said, but he does think the status quo creates problems, such as dangerous marijuana products mixed with other drugs. "It's tragic when you see someone who smokes some canabis and then dies from a fentanly overdose," he said. Want to subscribe to Plain Talk? Search for the show wherever you get your podcasts, or click here for more information.

Duration:01:03:23

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496: 'Supporting Ukraine puts America first'

4/24/2024
U.S. Senate candidate Katrina Christiansen says the incumbent in her race "isn't that popular." Christiansen is running unopposed for the Democratic-NPL's nomination, and the incumbent she's referring to is Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer, who is seeking a second six-year term. The challenger says she has polling suggesting that only 33% of previous Cramer voters are committed to voting for the incumbent again. "I think that shows the race can be competitive," she told me and my co-host Chad Oban, though she acknowledges that she has her own challenges. "My name rec is not great," she said, referring to name recognition, a common campaign metric, especially for challengers. We talked mostly about the question of federal policy on abortion -- Christiansen said she would vote to "codify Roe" in federal law -- and foreign policy. On the latter, Christiansen said Congress should have passed more aid funding for Ukraine "six months ago." She also spoke strong in support of Israel, though she says she supports a ceasefire. Still, "Supporting Ukraine puts America first," she said. "Supporting Israel puts America first." Christiansen said that if elected, she'll be "a foreign policy hawk." Also on this episode, we discuss the first debate between Republican gubernatorial candidates Tammy Miller and Kelly Armstrong, as well as my story about Miller's running mate, Commerce Commissioner Josh Teigen, and some personal conflicts of interest he had with his work in the Commerce Department under Gov. Doug Burgum's administration. To subscribe to Plain Talk, search for the show wherever you get our podcasts, or click here for more information.

Duration:01:02:28

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495: 'The House doesn't really need more bulls in a China closet'

4/19/2024
It wasn't on purpose, but bipartisanship and moderation ended up being the themes of this episode of Plain Talk. Whether we're talking about a Republican Speaker of the House, under siege from the MAGA wing of his own party, reaching out to Democrats to get things done, or democracy engaging on the issue of abortion now that the Roe v. Wade precedent has been overturned, it's clear that process matters. And when we engage in the process, and we have the debates, and we don't let ourselves be derailed by all the various flavors of theatrical obstructionism, the outcomes we get are further from what the extremes might want, and closer to what most of us can live with. Co-host Chad Oban and I talk about renewed controversy about delegate votes at the NDGOP state convention and whether U.S. House candidate Rick Becker's promises to help contribute to the chaos in Congress if elected is going to help him with North Dakota voters. We asked the guest for this show, Sen. Kevin Cramer, about that last point. "I think it's consistent with how Rick Becker has behaved in the Legislature," he said, arguing that Becker's campaign trail posturing is authentic. "It might be a good tactic to being the largest vote getter in a five-way race, he added. But also, "the House doesn't really need more bulls in a China closet," Cramer added. Want to subscribe to Plain Talk? Search for the show wherever you get your podcasts, or click here for more information.

Duration:00:59:06

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494: U.S. House candidates Julie Fedorchak and Cara Mund

4/17/2024
"I don't think he's a good person," U.S. House candidate said on this episode of Plain Talk, referring to former President Donald Trump. "I'm appalled at how much people have caved," she also said, saying her opponents in the North Dakota Republican Party's primary are too Trump loyal. "I'm the only candidate in this race who is not worshiping Trump,"she added. "I support women," she continued, referencing her fiercely pro-choice position on the issue of abortion, "and I will not bow to Trump." But when I asked her how she'll vote in November, she didn't rule out casting a ballot for Trump. "I'm considering the options for both," she said, adding that she did vote for Trump in 2016. Mund also discussed other policy positions, such as the issues at the border and support for Israel, and told my co-host Chad Oban and I that despite her passion about keeping legal access to abortion, she doesn't want to be known as a single-issue candidate. Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak also joined this episode, and talked about her evolving position on a federal abortion ban. When we interviewed her on Plain Talk in February, Fedorchak said she opposed a federal abortion ban. Now she says she supports one. What gives? Fedorchak says she supports the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe, and send the issue back to the states, but that she also isn't opposed to the federal government setting national guideline, though it wouldn't be an immediate priority. "Would this be my goal in the first 100 days in Congress? It wouldn't," she said. Fedorchak also hit both Mund and Becker for what she characterized as convenient political posturing. "They have changed parties as opportunists," she said, referring to Becker's decision to challenge Republican Sen. John Hoeven in 2022 as an independent, and Mund's strong support from Democrats as an independent U.S. House candidate that same cycle. As for Mund's contention that she worships Trump? "The only person I worship is my god," she said, adding that she plans to support Trump in 2024, and has no comment on his personal lifestyle choices or legal challenges. "I'm not going to pass judgment on Trump and his personal issues," she said. Want to subscribe to Plain Talk? Search for the show wherever you get your podcasts, or click here for more information.

Duration:01:10:41

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493: 'I have not heard in 12 years that families are asking us for more Christianity'

4/12/2024
Kirsten Baesler has been the elected Superintendent of North Dakota's Public Schools for nearly 12 years. She's now seeking a fourth term. Before each of her previous three elections to this office, she sought and received the North Dakota Republican Party's endorsement. She sought it again this year, but was denied it by the convention's delegates by a wide margin. They instead chose home schooling advocate James Bartlett, who has campaigned on bringing the 10 commandments and other Christian tenets to our state's public schools. On this episode of Plain Talk, Baesler told my co-host Chad Oban and I about her experiences at the state convention, Bartlett's push for more religion in schools, and why voters should give her a fourth term in office. "I have not heard in 12 years that families are asking us for more Christianity," she said. She added that she sought the NDGOP's endorsement knowing full well "things had shifted quite a bit in the Republican party" toward a new sort of populism. She said that whether or not to seek the endorsement at the convention was "weighing" on her mind. "I decided in the end I was going," she said. "I needed to make my case." Also on this episode, we discuss the politics around North Dakota's five-way Republican U.S. House primary that now features a traditional Republican in Public Service Commisisoner Julie Fedorchak, a populist Republican in former state lawmaker Rick Becker, former Miss America Cara Mund who campaigned against a Republican House incumbent as an independent last cycle, and two newcomer candidates, Alex Balazs and Sharlet Mohr. To subscribe to Plain Talk, search for the show wherever you get your podcasts, or click here for more information.

Duration:00:59:09

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492: 'If you just want to stir things up you're not doing your job'

4/10/2024
Alex Balazs, the out-of-nowhere candidate who won the North Dakota Republican Party's convention endorsement last week, ended his interview on this episode of Plain Talk by joking about the tough questions we asked him. We did run him through the ringer, on everything from abortion, to Trump's claims about the 2020 election and January 6, to the farm bill, Ukraine, and Social Security. One question I thought was important to get him on the record about was how he'd handle the dysfunction that has roiled the Republican caucus in the United States House of Representatives. One of his opponents, former lawmaker Rick Becker, has promised to go to Washington D.C. and contribute to the chaos by being a "bull in a china shop." "If you just want to stir things up you're not doing your job," Balazs told us of that approach. Balazs says he was "very humbled" to receive the convention endorsement. He said he made his decision to run for Congress "at the kitchen table." "I guess you could call me a Trump Republican, he said when asked about his support for the former president, "but I'm also the first one in the kitchen to say 'why did he have to say that?'" Did Trump win the 2020 election? "We went through a process that elected Joe Biden," he said, though he also said there was some fraud in the voting, and that Democrats should acknowledge it. As for January 6? "There was no insurrection," he said. "I'm never going to support anyone who broke a window or something," he added, but said he felt there have been many people put in jail for merely walking into the capitol that day. He added that what happened on January 6 was "less wrong than what happened after." On abortion, Balazs says "the answer is no on a federal abortion ban" but that he's a "conception to death kind of person" who wants to put "more teeth in the law." Balazs also said his campaign is mostly self-funded. He claims to have raised only $2,035 from contributors so far. So far in his campaign, he's leaned heavily on his resume in the military. When asked if he could offer documentation to substantiate that record, he said he doesn't want personal information made public --"they're very sensitive documents," he said -- but would be willing to make arrangements to have them reviewed. To subscribe to Plain Talk, search for the show wherever you get your podcasts, or click here for more information.

Duration:00:53:43