Plain Talk is a podcast hosted by blogger and columnist Rob Port focusing on political news and current events in North Dakota. Host Rob Port writes SayAnythingBlog.com, North Dakota’s most popular and influential political blog, and is a columnist for the Forum News Service published in papers including the Fargo Forum, Grand Forks Herald, Jamestown Sun, Minot Daily News, and the Dickinson Press.
My Wednesday co-host Chad Oban and I discuss the shooting, the reaction, and the exhausting debate we have after every one of these incidents on this episode of Plain Talk.
Also, Roscoe Streyle, a Republican primary candidate for the state House in District 3, discusses an idea he has to cut the state's property taxes in half.
Would it be permanent relief? How do we keep local governments from back-filling the state's relief with new tax hikes? How do we ensure that our schools and other local services continue to be adequately funded?
Streyle answers those questions, and also discusses what it's like to be running in a contested legislative primary in a divided North Dakota Republican Party.
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He's running as a Republican, though he said on this episode of Plain Talk that the office "really ought to be nonpartisan, and he's running on election integrity.
He said he got more involved in politics in recent years during the debates over pandemic-era policies like business closings and mask mandates, and when he was thinking about running for office, decided secretary of state seemed like a good fit.
He didn't seek the NDGOP's endorsement at the party's state convention earlier this year because he said his is a single-family home - he works in auto service and his wife is a homemaker - and it was a decision that was a difficult one to make.
How can our elections be better? Lepp says North Dakota's election machines are running on antiquated software. He said there are questions about the mobile hotspots election workers use. He also said he's spoken to poll workers who told him that the company which manages North Dakota's election machines was able to remotely log into them to fix a firmware issue, something he feels raises security concerns, though he admitted he hadn't verified this claim.
Does he think President Joe Biden won the 2020 election? Former President Donald Trump and his movement have made that a litmus test question for Republicans nationally. "He won in North Dakota," Lepp told me, referring to Trump. As for elsewhere, Lepp said he's "not sure" because there are "too many" questions lingering.
Lepp also spoke about the non-election portions of the secretary of state job, including managing business filings and serving on important state boards such as the State Industrial Commission and the Land Board.
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State Rep. Michael Howe is squaring off with Bismarck mechanic Marvin Lepp in the NDGOP primary.
Powell has been watching that race, and on this episode of Plain Talk, said it frustrates him when the Republican candidates talk about "election integrity," arguing that's a "code word for voter suppression."
He said the primary job of a Secretary of State is to protect the right of the people to vote, and accused Republican lawmakers of enacting laws to suppress votes in past legislative sessions.
Powell also spoke about running as a Democrat in a state that has become deeply Republican over the last couple of decades. He said there is a "sense of fear" among Democrats who think about running for office in North Dakota. He acknowledged that both Republicans and Democrats have become more extreme in recent years, but that the alleged danger is "more keenly felt by people who are more likely to be Democrats."
Powell said he hasn't personally felt any danger in running for office.
Also on this episode, Dickinson-based oil worker Riley Kuntz, who is challenging incumbent U.S. Senator John Hoeven for the NDGOP's primary nomination, spoke about why he decided to mount what he admits is a long-shot bid to defeat one of North Dakota's most popular political figures.
He said he was disappointed state Rep. Rick Becker, who challenged Hoeven at the NDGOP's state convention, wasn't successful and felt he had to continue the challenge to Hoeven.
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What did we learn after this week's primary elections? And the fundraising numbers we're seeing in North Dakota's Republican legislative primaries so far?
We talked about it on this episode of Plain Talk. Matt Lewis, senior columnist for the Daily Beast and host of the Matt Lewis and the News podcast, joined to discuss the national races. Wednesday co-host Chad Oban and I discussed the more local races, where traditional or "establishment" legislative candidates seem to have an edge.
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We have some of the cleanest air in the nation. Ours is one of only four states to have never violated a federal air quality standard protecting health or the environment. We've been building on that excellent record too. "Since 2002, total emissions from coal-powered electricity generation plants in North Dakota were reduced by 102,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, or 72%, and 41,600 tons of nitrogen oxide, down 55%," Patrick Springer reported last month.
Despite this, the Biden administration argues that North Dakota's state-level management of regional haze isn't good enough. They want to layer more federal regulations on top through the EPA's Regional Haze Program.
Mack McGuffey, an attorney who specializes in this area of environmental policy and is representing North Dakota's Lignite Energy Council, joined this episode of Plain Talk to discuss the issue. He and his client are encouraging the public to provide public comment to the EPA, something you can do through CleanAirND.com, a website set up by the LEC to inform and facilitate that process.
Matour Alier, who is running for the Fargo City Commission, also joined this episode. We talked about his objections to a recent column of mine that was critical of him, how a local candidate can stand out in a field of 15 contenders, and his experiences as a refugee who went from living in a camp for a decade to being a home owner in North Dakota.
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Will the federal government create new law regarding abortion, either codifying it as legal or creating national restrictions?
And what are the political ramifications for all this?
Sen. Kevin Cramer discussed these issues on this episode of Plain Talk.
He also reacted to my recent interview with New York Times reporter Jonathan Martin whose new book contains an anecdote about January 6 which includes Cramer.
We also discussed the situation in Ukraine, from the potential for food shortages as war ravages one of the world's great agriculture producers, to the increasingly assertive role America is playing in the conflict.
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He and co-author Alexander Burns tell that story in a new book, just released this week, called "This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America's Future."
Martin spoke with co-host Chad Oban and I about what it was like to watch some of our nation's most recognizable political figures react to the riot in real-time as part of a larger narrative about the transition from the Trump era to Biden's current presidency.
I wrote about an excerpt from Martin's book, describing Cramer's response to the riots, in a column earlier this week.
Also on this episode, Chad and I discuss the political implications over the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the Roe v. Wade precedent.
The debate over abortion is one thing, but the shift of that debate from the judiciary and back into the arena of democracy, where it would be settled by governors and state legislatures across the country has the potential to be one of the most profound turn of events in a generation or two of American politics.
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That lead them to curtail their investments in new production capacity, something that, per Smith, speaking on this episode of Plain Talk, is now contributing to higher fuel prices and a higher cost of living for Americans.
Cheap energy is of enormous interest, not just to Americans but to the whole world, Dr. Smith says. "Cheap energy is the solution to poverty," he said, casting the debates on energy issues as a "conflict between the reduction of poverty and the interest in reducing carbon emissions."
Though he says the world can't ignore climate issues, he has a hard time ranking them above the goal of lifting people out of poverty.
Dr. Smith has also done extensive research in the role of trust, love, and empathy in a society, and spoke about those issues in the context of our low-trust society and political environment.
He will be speaking about these topics more at a Tuesday, May 3, talk sponsored by North Dakota State University's Sheila and Robert Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth. If you want to participate in Dr. Smith's lecture, which will be part of the Menard Family Distinguished Speakers Series, visit the Challey Institute's page on the NDSU website.
There are billions in investments lined across several projects to not only capture and store carbon emitted in our state, but to bring carbon from other parts of the world here for storage as well.
One of the first major projects is the Midwest Carbon Express pipeline, proposed by Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions, which would bring carbon emitted by ethanol plants across the upper midwest to our state for storage.
Only, some landowners say the company hasn't been doing a good job at winning them over. On this episode of Plain Talk, Daryl Lies, the president of the North Dakota Farm Bureau, said some landowners had Summit Carbon representatives poking around on their land without permission. Kurt Swenson, himself a landowner who is in the process of negotiating with Summit, says the deals the company wants, and which North Dakota law allows, takes too much from landowners and doesn't compensate nearly high enough.
These are important things, both men argue, because the future of the emerging carbon capture and storage industry in North Dakota hinges on how these first deals play out.
Yet the delegates at the NDGOP's local district convention didn't endorse her for re-election. Instead they endorsed a man named Keith Boehm, who campaigned against Bell based on her votes against a bill regulating transgender participation in North Dakota school activities.
How did a culture war issue come to be so much more important than jobs and taxes and sound governance? Sen. Bell talked about it on this episode of Plain Talk.
"It was a bad bill," she said in explanation of her vote on the transgender activities issue. "It was poorly written."
She said North Dakota's elected officials ought to be focused on issues important to North Dakota, and not national culture war issues. "Just because we saw it on Fox News doesn't mean it's appropriate," she said.
She added that she does appreciate the challenge, however, in that it gives her the opportunity to talk about her work in the Senate. It is "pushing me to be better," she said.
Also on this episode, Wednesday co-host Chad Oban and I talk about the roots of the controversy around the Midwest Carbon Express pipeline, Elon Musk's purchase of Twitter, and Sen. Ray Holmberg resigning from the Senate amid controversy.