North Dakota nice on display at early debate
Posted 5/08/18 (Tue)
By Steve Andrist
With the general election still six months away, it's definitely too early to start talking about the candidates, even though when you turn on the tube you can already see them talking about themselves.
But every election year, when the North Dakota Newspaper Association holds its annual convention in early May, one of the program staples is the first candidate debate of the season.
It happened in Bismarck last weekend, when the two endorsed candidates for North Dakota's seat in the U.S. House of Representative answered questions from three newspaper journalists, one from the state’s biggest media conglomerate, one from a community weekly, and one a high schooler.
The candidates are Democrat Mac Schneider, an attorney from Grand Forks, and Republican Kelly Armstrong, an attorney from Dickinson.
If they were there to duke it out, the gloves never came off.
In fact, as they first crossed paths in the foyer outside the ballroom at the Radisson, the scene was more like the renewal of an old friendship than a confrontation between Kylo Ren and Rey.
Their handshake was strong and warm.
“How you doin’, buddy?” said one.
“Good to see you again,” came the reply.
Even during the debate the opponents both talked about working together on several projects during the years when they were both members of the North Dakota Senate.
As the debate forged into substantive policy issues, they still found themselves frequently agreeing with one another, so much so that on several occasions they chose to forgo opportunities for rebuttal.
Still, Armstrong has clearly identified himself as a staunch conservative, and Schneider has staked out middle ground as a moderate.
When it came to the farm bill though, disagreement could barely be detected.
Ditto for allowing Special Counsel Robert Mueller to continue his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
And for “all of the above” energy development.
And for objecting to federal overreach.
And for balancing the federal budget.
And for providing resource officers to local school districts to help keep students safe.
And for optimism that there will be lasting peace on the Korean penninsula.
In short, these two North Dakotans behaved exactly as the people they are: kind-hearted, decent, motivated, well-intentioned public servants.
What remains to be seen is whether the heat of a campaign will turn them into Kylo and Rey, lobbing insults and out-of-context allegations at one another.
That’s the political reality these days.
But it’s not the North Dakota reality, and these men are honorable North Dakotans.
Let’s hope they’re still warmly shaking hands in November.
A bit of envy
In all my years running community newspapers in Crosby and Tioga the award I always coveted most in the annual Better Newspaper contest was recognition for general excellence.
That’s the award that says all the components of a newspaper, taken as a whole, stand out above your peers.
We managed to win the general excellence award a few times. But in the five years I’ve been gone, the Journal has been so awarded three times, including, as of Friday, two years running.
That leaves me just a bit envious, but nevertheless quite a bit proud.
Congrats to The Journal crew.