Posted 10/24/18 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
For the most part, when candidates are running for elected office in North Dakota, voters can expect a whole lot of “North Dakota nice” between the candidates. What exactly is “North Dakota nice” when it comes to campaigning? It is when candidates choose to tell voters why they should be elected to serve them in office and don’t try to make their opponent out as being a vile person.
But this election cycle, in the race for North Dakota’s U.S. Senate seat “North Dakota nice” has definitely been flushed down the toilet.
For the past six months, both incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and her challenger Republican Kevin Cramer have filled the airwaves and newspaper pages with some of the most negative campaign advertising the state has seen. Obviously the stakes are very high for this Senate seat, both on the state and national front. North Dakotans want a person who will represent their interests well in Washington, D.C. But more importantly, the choice that North Dakotans make in the 2018 General Election has the possibility of swinging the balance of power in the U.S. Senate from Republican to Democrat.
With the stakes that high, it is no wonder that both national political parties are spending a record amount of money trying to influence voters’ decisions in the election.
Really, wouldn’t it be much better if voters really understood what Heitkamp and Cramer really stood for. And less about why their opponent doesn’t deserve to be elected. It is sad to see North Dakota politics sink to the same standards that seem to be prevalent across the country.
But it isn’t just the negativity of the U.S. Senate race that is disturbing. So is all of the negativity in the race for McKenzie County Sheriff.
While Heitkamp and Cramer have chosen to take their battle to the voters via the state’s news media, in McKenzie County the battle between incumbent Gary Schwartzenberger and challenger Matt Johansen is being fought through social media.
To give both sheriff candidates credit, they have seemingly stayed away from the furor that has taken over several common Watford City social media sites. But what the minions of both candidates are doing and saying on these sites should be terribly alarming to everyone.
Through their posts and comments on these sites, proponents and opponents of both sheriff candidates are throwing out terrible accusations, some founded and some unfounded. Some hide behind “fake” identities, while others feel that social media is a free-wheeling discourse where anything can be said or written without the fear of being charged with libel or slander.
In the end, what is happening on these social media sites is destroying both Schwartzenberger and Johansen, not only as potential sheriffs, but as individuals. These two men have chosen to live and work in McKenzie County. And this is where they intend to raise their families.
The damage that is being done in this sheriff election is bound to carry over in how well either one is going to be able to perform their duties after the election.
There is little that any of us can do to change the way that national political organizations decide to run political campaigns. But, there is something that those of us in McKenzie County can do about how we would like to see elections be conducted locally.
We can, and must, return to being “North Dakota nice.”