North Dakota District 30 Republican incumbents Mike Nathe, Glenn Bosch, and Diane Larson get censured.
They weren't there to hear about it, though.
For context, please read last year’s post on ND District 30.
The District 30 Republican endorsing and delegate selection convention was January 24, 2024.
North Dakota District 30 is unique. Sen. John Hoeven (former North Dakota governor) lives in it. Rep. Kelly Armstrong (who is now running for North Dakota governor) lives in it. There’s also an Easy Street either in or on the edge of District 30 but don’t let that misnomer fool you.
Initially, it seemed as if the most exciting thing that would happen was the falling political posters and signs, victims of exhausted masking tape, sending the posters to the gym floor like a drum shot punctuating the various stump speeches.
I had planned on being at Bible study, but with 2024 looking to be a wild election year, I decided I should attend the district meeting instead. Since the incumbents from the district—Nathe, Bosch, and Larson—had not been so impressive at the last meeting, I hoped they would at least come and be willing to talk about why they should be the district’s candidates.
This was particularly so, in light of information from the website Leginate, which shows how left or right candidates were based on their voting history.
Turns out, Nathe and Bosch aren’t really all that Republican. In North Dakota, you just stick an (R) at the end of your name on the ballot so you get elected but you then behave like a (D) and since most of us vote default (R) in subsequent elections, you’re good to go.
When leaders tell you that we shouldn’t fight amongst ourselves and that (R) should focus on defeating (D), they conveniently forget all the (D) in the (R) here in North Dakota, and here in District 30.
According to Leginate, these two fellows are only sorta kinda conservative.
If you’re voting for candidates because they have an (R) after their name, but you are also concerned about some of the issues that conservatives hold dear in this crumbling nation of ours, it may be time for you to show up at the meetings and ask your representatives about their voting record and why they aren’t as friendly towards the things that matter to you.
Well, except in District 30, you can’t.
At least not at the official endorsing and delegate selection convention for the district. Because none of the actual current district legislators came to the meeting.
Oh, they’ll still be on the primary ballot, choosing to circumvent the actual district selection process, handily avoiding contact with people in the district who want to hold them accountable for some sketchy votes in the last session.
Honestly, I’m excited and hopeful for them to come to my door and ask for a signature to get on the ballot because a) I don’t think they’ve graced my door before, b) I’ll finally get to talk to them, and c) it should be a fine conversation because they sent me a postcard before Christmas, smiling and assuring me they deserved Dear Resident’s vote. They looked so nice in the photo.
I don’t have the postcard anymore, but the special Christmas feeling I got was palpable.
My friend made the point that it was fairly obvious there was collusion, the favorite word of the decade.
To my knowledge, the three didn’t send their apologies. Pretty much none of their supporters came, including executive committee staff.2 How strange that so many had a family emergency or impermeable plans that night, particularly since this was the night they’d insisted on having the meeting.
But we’ll get to that in a moment.
“I would expect them to reach out to the district chair to apologize and give an explanation to the voters,” my friend said, pointing out that as far as political stunts go, this one was stupid.
Unless you’re in kindergarten, it is unreasonable to pout in the corner when you don’t like the game being played. With about 30 years of combined experience as legislators, they ought to be better. Or, in the words of Melania Trump, they could have chosen to “Be Best.”
Alas, instead they looked cowardly and childish, cementing that view of them in the minds of those at the meeting (and those talking about it later). Even if they lost the vote that night, even if the frying pan they had to stand in was hot, they could still have continued with their plan to get on the ballot. They just would have looked a whole lot better doing so. Impressive, even.
Instead, they left voters with nothing else but to hear secondhand information and rely on a website’s bar graph that used an algorithm to explain their voting. They might have had a good explanation for their votes and I was willing to hear it. I wanted to know the reasoning behind their votes; perhaps they had reasons I hadn’t thought of.
Rep. Kelly Armstrong was there and gave an update on activities at a national level, reminding us he was running for governor. After speaking for a while, he thanked the audience for “…giving up the most valuable asset—your time—to be here tonight.”
Maybe tell that to your buddies in District 30, Kelly, the ones who didn’t show up.
I looked around the room at all the people there, sitting on hard metal chairs that they had to help set out and would later tear down and put away. It was January, a church night, a school night, a workweek night—and Nathe, Bosch, and Larson couldn’t even be bothered to attend?
We don’t respect the people in the district.
We don’t respect the process and by-laws of the district.
We’re going to do what’s right in our own eyes.
We’re entitled to our positions.
We aren’t going to face the voters we’re not comfortable with.
This is the message they provided.
How Armstrong can name-drop Jim Jordan and Trump and not kick the pants of his neighborhood pals who don’t seem to want to mingle with the very people who wear those red hats or at least lean that way is beyond me.
Only the new candidates—the ones who came to the meeting—were available to be chosen to be put on the primary ballot through the night’s process, and so a voice vote was used. It was unanimous for each vote.
Justis Amundson was elected for Nathe’s representative seat. Dave Charles was elected for Bosch’s representative seat. And Adam Rose was elected for Diane Larson’s senate seat.3
That means we’ll see six names on the primary ballot, the ones the district officially selected (Amundson, Charles, Rose), and the three incumbents who pulled a Frank Sinatra and did it their way even though they didn’t have a problem with the district process in the past when it worked in their favor.
I know there were two or maybe a few more folks who were present at the meeting who were supportive of the incumbents and so the lack of any “nay” votes meant they were either fine with the new leadership or had remained silent.
That was interesting in light of a speech given earlier that night by Lori Hinz in which she described being the sole standing nay vote at an RNC event, telling us to be bold, and that courage was contagious, adding that “…you can sit down and be status quo or stand up and be a pot stirrer.”
You can be bold and stand and speak, you can sit down and be quiet, or you can be passive-aggressive and not show up.
If you’re in District 30 and would actually like representatives who don’t mind talking to you and finding out how you’d like to be represented, who come to the meetings and will answer your questions, people who actually came to my door with information about their candidacy and spoke to me—then perhaps when you see the primary ballot you’ll consider Rose, Amundson, and Charles.
At least they show up. It’s a low bar we’ve set here in District 30 with all its big-name state politicians, but there we have it.
At the end of the meeting, a member of the public made a motion to censure the three incumbents. There was discussion and an attempt to amend that motion to change the language from “censure” to expressing “disappointment.”
There was no teeth or punitive power to either outcome; it would simply be a statement.
Josh Gallion supported the less strenuous language, saying that a censure coming out of District 30 was a black eye on the proceedings and that there was a positive message coming out of the meeting with three great candidates. He closed by saying that we should let the three incumbents know what we thought of their behavior at the ballot box. The woman behind me muttered that the three incumbents not coming was bullshit.
I considered both arguments.
I had some other words I’d liked to have used, which is why I really shouldn’t miss Bible study. Disappointed is what I felt personally. Censured is what was due professionally. As public servants, Nathe, Bosch, and Larson need to view the people in the district as their bosses. Could you imagine if your employer called a meeting and you decided to not show up?
There was palpable anger in the room, and the debate wasn’t on whether or not to express it, but how to express it. The vote was close, and Rose, Amundson, and Charles did not participate in it, but censure it was.
This could be the end of it, but there’s something much more bizarre, much more devious, that happened.
This is the tale of the self-canceling venue.
This Gym Won’t Cancel Itself
January 26, 2024
BISMARCK, North Dakota — District 30 Chair Justis Amundson was stuck in an awkward spot on Wednesday night.
Looking out on a sea (pond?) of 100 people, he announced that the three incumbents had not shown up to participate. The crowd murmured a bit, whispers of both confusion and displeasure.
Amundson apologized for what he was going to do next but explained that because he’d heard rumors claiming they didn’t know about the meeting, he would provide information to clear the air. While airing dirty laundry seems uncouth, Amundson was trying to make the point that it was necessary to put it out in the sun to get the stink out. Gossip and rumor are only dispelled that way.
It was time for a post-mortem of sorts because it wasn’t just a problem of three folks who didn’t show up. It was a problem of people in leadership who seemingly tried to sabotage the district meeting.
Providing both a visual timeline, backed up by screenshots and graphics, Amundson let district residents know how some on the district executive committee, and the three incumbent legislators, had maneuvered in such a way that the meeting we were attending that night almost didn’t happen.
Grasping it all was difficult, both because of the detail and because of disbelief that this really would have happened.
After the meeting was over, I promptly emailed the three incumbents asking for an explanation, but as of publication, I have not heard back. The next day, January 25, 2024, I sat down with Amundson and his wife over coffee to talk about that timeline and what he shared at the meeting to get a better understanding of what was going on.4
Though difficult to follow, the convoluted but methodical pattern Amundson laid out was one of an executive committee using questionable actions, which were possibly illegal or at the very least procedurally incorrect. They were not done in good faith.
There were meetings called to order by executive committee members who didn’t have that power, meetings held after meetings were adjourned and Amundson was no longer present on the Zoom call, loud motions that jumped ahead of meeting agendas, meeting actions that were out of order and not properly resolved, and attempts to make a motion via email. Amundson said he had screenshots and the necessary materials to back up these claims, including proof that refuted the claims that the communication problems were on him because he hadn’t returned phone calls to the incumbent legislators. Some screenshots he showed me.
Starting in October of 2023, meetings were called at what seemed like strangely coincidental times, such as the week of Amundson’s wedding, or at the last minute.
The January 24 date for the endorsing and delegate selection convention was a date Glenn Bosch had selected very early on, sometime in October or so, one Amundson couldn’t make because of involvement at his church on Wednesday nights. Other dates were offered, including Sundays and other Wednesdays, which were still problematic.
Through a tangled mass of texts and emails, including Amundson alerting the state party with concerns about what was going on, and attempting to meet with Bosch to discuss district convention date options only to have him cancel the meeting an hour before, Amundson finally agreed to the original January 24, 2024 meeting date to get something on the calendar. The meeting date was known by the incumbents, and agreed upon, in the meeting minutes.
Put a pin in this: they knew January 24 was the date of the meeting.5 It’s in the minutes.
According to Amundson, North Dakota Century Code requires proper notice of such meetings to be placed in the newspaper and with the state party. He said such notice was given to the Bismarck Tribune and the state party well in advance, and he has the proof to support that. There was no reason for anyone to say they didn’t know the meeting was on January 24th.
Glenn Bosch had arranged to reserve the gym at the local elementary school. As far as Amundson was concerned, the meeting date was set, the venue reserved, and things were good to go.
“The day I announced my own candidacy, Bosch canceled the meeting I had with him,” Amundson said. It was about that time, from what I can gather, when communication broke down with the executive committee.
Shortly after the new year, Bosch called the venue he’d booked for the meeting and left a voicemail, requesting to cancel his reservation because it was no longer needed.6 Amundson, as district chair, said he did not know they were canceling the meeting venue. There was no indication that January 24th was not going to happen, Amundson said, though he had suspicions that something was going on.
In fact, Amundson said the only reason he found out that the meeting location was canceled was a feeling that something was up and a quick check of the school’s online calendar that revealed the reservation was gone.
“They booked a basketball game there almost right away,” he said. Someone from the district had to go to the school to make sure that they got their original venue back. By this time, postcards, mailings, and online marketing had gone out announcing the date of the meeting to the people in the district.
Yet the same people who had insisted the meeting be on January 24—who indicated they wanted the meeting then, who Amundson acquiesced to despite his own schedule conflict—tried to pull the rug out from under the district and didn’t bother to show up for the very thing they insisted on.
On January 25th, the day after the district meeting, a flurry of media inquiries to Amundson and others indicated a potential heavy spin was going on in the aftermath of the meeting and resulting censure.7 One reporter had asked Amundson if he could be referred to as an “ultra-conservative” to which Amundson said no.
Essentially what I heard described was a story of an executive committee—which came into existence at the previous meeting—working to exclude the chair and the new candidates who they believed, based on a message that was apparently shown to Amundson by a private citizen, were the “shit” candidates.
If they are the “shit” candidates, a related question has to be who are the people who support them? Are we “shit” people? How does one become a valid candidate or citizen? Better address? Bigger house? Hyphenated last name? Family connections to people in power? The right network?
This isn’t a battle of “ultra-conservatives” or “shit” candidates against proper folks who deserve to lead. It’s incumbents who have too long pulled the levers and need to have the curtain pulled back once and for all to show what they are doing so voters can decide if they want to keep those levers within their reach.
District 30 sometimes feels like it’s caught in a 1980s coming-of-age movie, where some residents live along the river in wealthier neighborhoods with all the powerful state and lobby connections, and some live on the other side of the trailer park. And while they might mix at high school in the hallways, or in our case, bumping into each other at the store or restaurants (but not actually at district meetings because they don’t come to those), at the end of the day they still stay separate.
Representative republics work poorly when the representatives refuse to represent.
There are about 17,000 people in the district.
The current executive committee voted in during the contentious 2023 meeting in which Nathe proudly stated that they “took it back” is surprisingly filled with lobbyists and people who have proudly made their living working for the state.
UPDATE: Rob Port is incorrect in stating that Amundson presided over his own endorsement; Mike Blessum did as Amundson handed things over to him. I have audio recording of Blessum leading that, and you can hear a snippet of it at the end of the audio version of this blog. Port is factually incorrect. Regarding Amundson counting the hand votes during the censure, several others were also there counting along with him. It was very public and transparent.
I did email Rob and let him know about the need to address a potential correction and would be happy to provide him with more information if needed.
I imagine Port’s concerns about a rigged election would have been significantly alleviated had the executive committee shown up to do their jobs as the process is supposed to work.
HEH: My own correction is that it is Mike Blessum, not Nessum.
Immediately after arriving home after the meeting, I sent an email to all three incumbents asking them if they would like to share their side of the story. If they respond, I absolutely will update this article to reflect that. As of publication, they have not. They have spoken to other media, however, to share their side.
In an email from the secretary, the meeting minutes clearly show that the executive committee both knew and agreed upon the meeting date.
“This is Glenn Bosch. I’ve got a facilities reservation for Solheim school on, uh, the 24th of January. And it, uh, looks like we’re not going to be able to use it that night so I need to cancel that reservation. Uh, I’m going to try and go online to see if I can do it from there, um, but, uh, otherwise if you wouldn’t mind calling me back or letting me know what the process is to cancel this. I’d really appreciate it. Again, Glenn Bosch. Solheim school. The 24th of January with the reservation.”
This is exactly what he said. I heard this recording, have a copy, and considered publishing it but am waiting for now. However, Glenn Bosch did, indeed, call and cancel the reservation. If there is more to the story that he could provide, I would welcome it and would add an update.
Amundson sent out a press release on January 25, 2024. (This is the updated version from January 26 as the initial version incorrectly stated “nomination” instead of “endorsement.”