COMMENTARY: Republicans challenging Republicans is a healthy thing for North Dakota's dominant party
MINOT, N.D. — North Dakota is a state dominated by a single political party.
Democrats haven't had just one candidate win on the statewide ballot since 2008. That was Senator Heidi Heitkamp who won in 2012 by mostly campaigning as though she were a Republican.
She's governed significantly further to the left than she campaigned, but I digress.
Democrats hold less than 20 percent of the seats in the state Senate, and not even 14 percent of the seats in the House. The last time our liberal friends had a majority in the Senate we had Bill Clinton for a president and a jury in Los Angeles was acquitting O.J. Simpson.
They haven't had a House majority since the Reagan administration.
North Dakota voters feel as though they've been served well by Republicans as evidenced by the fact that they're mostly voting for them over and over again.
Democrats have helped make that choice easy for most voters by behaving themselves, as a party, like a bunch of petulant children obsessed with hot-button social issues that hold little sway with North Dakota voters.
But even a political party as successful as the NDGOP needs to be worried about complacency. Lethargy. Atrophy brought on by a lack of serious competition.
Which is why it's such good news that Mandan Republican Will Gardner is challenging long-time incumbent Secretary of State Al Jaeger.
While there has been plenty of competition among Republicans for open seats in recent election cycle, we don't see NDGOP candidates taking on sitting incumbents nearly enough.
Jaeger has become so comfortable in his office that you could use a photo of him sitting at his desk — the clutter on which has become a thing of legend among capitol gossips — as the dictionary definition for complacency.
Whatever Jaeger may have accomplished in the past, it's high time he moved on from his tenure in office which began way back in 1992.
An eighteen year old who voted for Jaeger's first term in office would be comfortably middle aged today.
It's time to consider some fresh blood.
It was probably time a couple of cycles ago.
Gardner is an interesting candidate. He has a background in IT and web development as well as work in the legal community. He's paid his political dues with years of involvement in Republican politics. He's currently chairman of his local district's NDGOP chapter.
He still needs to make a compelling case for himself to win the nomination over an incumbent like Jaeger, but Republicans should pay attention.
If the NDGOP hopes to continue their political dominance they need embrace a new generation of younger candidates, even if that means turning a back to some old friends.
Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Follow him on Twitter at @RobPort