Plain Talk With Rob Port
Plain Talk is a weekday update about North Dakota news and politics with Forum News Service columnist and logger Rob Port.
Democratic-NPL gubernatorial candidate Shelley Lenz takes questions and talks about her campaign. Also state Rep. Scott Louser (R-Minot) makes the pitch for Measure 2.
Rob and Jay talk about some recent fire at a Minot City Council meeting, and controversy over a Native American statue in Carrington.
Rob and Jay talk about a report connecting some 250,000 cases of coronavirus to the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota.
North Dakota has come "dangerously close" to not having the power it needs. That's what Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette said on this episode of Plain Talk. He said that political policies favoring energy sources like wind and solar are "distorting the economic viability" of baseload energy like coal. Secretary Brouillette said he wasn't going to criticize a company like Great River Energy, which announced earlier this year that they would be closing down North Dakota's largest coal-fired power plant because they're reacting rationally to a distorted market place. Still, with baseload energy sources like coal plants shutting down, it's putting Americans, generally, and North Dakotans, specifically, at risk. "If anyone misses the point of why baseload energy is important...look at California," Brouillette said. The Secretary is visiting North Dakota to review the nuclear missions at the Minot Air Force Base and to participate in roundtable discussions about the challenges facing the oil, gas, and coal industries, issues he also addressed in this episode.
Jay and Rob talk about the North Dakota Supreme Court kicking Measure 3 off the ballot.
On this episode of Plain Talk Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control in Georgia, talks about the COVID-19 impact and how America, generally, and North Dakota, specifically, is handling it. One point Redfield made is that elected officials need to avoid making sweeping policies, instead tailoring responses to the needs of specific areas. "We need to be more surgical," Redfield said, echoing something Governor Doug Burgum has been saying about responding to the pandemic "using a scalpel not a sledgehammer." Asked how North Dakota is doing in its handling of the outbreak, Redfield offered a risk assessment. He said the CDC considers a state in the "red zone" if it has more than 100 active cases per 100,000 citizens. "North Dakota has about 151 per 100,000," he said, though he added that another measure his agency looks at is the percentage of tests being conducted that are coming back positive. A 10 percent rate puts a state in the red zone, per the CDC. Redfield noted that North Dakota's daily rates are typically coming back under 6 percent. In a recent column, I noted that just about everyone in North Dakota who is testing positive for the virus is recovering with most - around 95 percent - not even needing to be hospitalized. In response, some argued that even those who recover may face long-term health challenges resulting from having the virus. I asked Dr. Redfield about that. "It's unknown territory," he said, noting that the virus has only been with us for a matter of months. It's something the CDC is tracking, but he expects that healthy people without "co-morbidities" (which is to say, other health issues) who get the virus will likely recover and be fine long-term.
Jay and Rob talk about the Trump vs. Biden race, and the group calling itself North Dakota Voters First which is pushing Measure 3.
Incumbent Congressman Kelly Armstrong, a Republican, debates Democratic challenger Zach Raknerud on issues ranging from marijuana to criminal justice reform to energy development and the postal service.
Rob and Jay talk about the election and mail-in voting.
Rob and Jay talk about North Dakota's cap on state liability, President Donald Trump's attempted suspension of payroll taxes, and coronavirus news.
Rob and Jay talk about re-opening schools during the pandemic.
Rob and Jay talk about the coronavirus and masks.
Rob and Jay talk about coronavirus, mask mandates, and employee bonuses for the state of North Dakota.
In a recent tweet, President Donald Trump criticized a portion of wall built along the American southern border by a private group of his supporters. "I disagreed with doing this very small (tiny) section of the wall, in a tricky area, by a private group which raised money by ads," Trump wrote, responding to media reports claiming this section of the wall is facing problems from erosion. "It was only done to make me look bad, and perhaps it now doesn't even work. Should have been built like the rest of the Wall, 500 plus miles." This portion of the wall was built by Fisher Industries, a North Dakota company that has also received contracts from the federal government to build hundreds of miles of southern border wall. "I don't know what got into the president," Senator Kevin Cramer said when asked about the situation on this episode of Plain Talk. "It's only mildly interesting to me, to be honest," Cramer added, noting that he hasn't spoken to the President or any White House staff about the situation. He did defend Fisher's wall construction, including the portion the president criticized. "I don't think he said anything about Fisher Industries specifically," Cramer said. "The President is nothing if not spontaneous," Cramer replied when asked if the tweet frustrated him. "I don't get frustrated. He also speaks in hyperbole. A lot of people don't understand that." Cramer also discussed the Pentagon's new policy about which flags can be displayed at military bases that excludes Confederate flags and the roller-coaster legal fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Rob and Jay talk about re-opening North Dakota's schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Rob and Jay talk about mobs tearing down statues across the United States.
"He liked watching him on the shows." That's what Senator Kevin Cramer said on this episode of Plain Talk, responding to a question about why President Donald Trump would have hired John Bolton in the first place. Bolton is currently peddling some salacious stories about his tenure in the Trump administration, and that has earned him quite a bit of condemnation from Republicans, up to and including the President himself. But Bolton is hardly the first member of the Trump administration to depart under stormy circumstances, and while the President doesn't have anything nice to say about them, the fact remains that he hired them in the first place. Per Cramer, Bolton apparently got his job because he had a "bareknuckle" style during his cable news appearances. Cramer also addressed the NDGOP's Treasurer race, which saw state Rep. Thomas Beadle emerge as the winner over the Senator's preferred candidate Dan Johnston. Cramer helped orchestrate an endorsement for Johnston from Trump, but that wasn't enough to put him over the top. "I'm still glad I supported him," Cramer said of Johnston. Asked if Johnston's loss is an indication that Trump has lost popularity in North Dakota, Cramer said "no, not at all." Would Cramer be open to making Juneteenth a national holiday? "I'm not ready to do that, but I'm open to the discussion," he said, adding that he'd like to review all major holidays to ensure that the calendar isn't getting too full of federally-recognized days.
Does North Dakota need a special session? House Minority Leader Josh Boschee, a Democratic lawmaker from Fargo, thinks so. He is one of a group of Democratic lawmakers who are requesting a special session to address the impacts of the coronavirus. One major issue Boschee would like handed is some $1.25 billion in federal funding North Dakota is receiving to help address the COVID-19 situation. As it stands now, the executive branch will decide how that money is spent, specifically, and the Legislature's Budget Section Committee will say "yea" or "nay" to the decision. That committee can't do anything more than that. If they do, it would be unconstitutional, since a mere committee of the Legislature cannot, on its own, legislate. Also, membership on that committee is limited. Many parts of the state have no representation on it. Boschee thinks the whole Legislature should get to weigh in on the issue, as well as other problems facing the state, such as looming budget shortfalls and public health policy.
Rob and Jay talk about another billionaire-backed initiated measure for North Dakota, though this one is being pitched under false pretenses.
Both North Dakota and the nation are grappling with the task of returning our society to some semblance of normal while still keeping in place appropriate measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic. On this episode of Plain Talk, Arik Spencer from the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce talks about some protections his organization feels business owners need to help them get back to employing their employees and serving the public. He noted that many businesses, like restaurants as one example, are afraid to re-open out of fear they'll be liable if an outbreak of coronavirus happens in one of their facilities. Similarly, businesses that shifted their work over to producing things needed during the pandemic - breweries, for instance, which started making hand sanitizer - are worried they could be sued if those products, which they don't typically produce, were faulty. "Can they be sued for trying to be a good Samaritan?" Spencer asked. What he'd like to see is legislation, preferably at the federal level but also at the state level if need be, which would protect businesses that acted in good faith from liability. Spencer says he's heard from some of his members in North Dakota that law firms are advertising looking for clients who feel they were impacted by coronavirus. A law making it clear that businesses which followed the government's guidelines are protected from liability would help our state, and the nation, get back to work. "Let's not inhibit them anymore. Let's get people back to work," Spencer said.
"To say that money buys elections in North Dakota is a little bit insulting to the people of North Dakota," Governor Doug Burgum said on this episode of Plain Talk. He was addressing a question about the criticism he's faced for spending millions, much of it his own money, on promoting his preferred slate of candidates in the North Dakota Republican Party's recent primary election. "There's so much more than money in politics," he added, arguing that the candidates he backed won because they persuaded voters. "People win in North Dakota when they've got the right message," he continued. Some have suggested there is growing discord between Burgum and Senator Kevin Cramer, a fellow Republican. These suggestions have sometimes come with speculation that Burgum might challenge Cramer for his Senate seat. "I'm trying not to laugh," Burgum said when I asked him about that, saying he would not ever think of challenging Cramer. In fact, he's not interested in a job in Congress under any circumstances. "The last thing in the world I would want to be is a Senator or Congressman," he said.
The political parties didn't hold their traditional biannual state conventions. The candidates were constrained in their ability to campaign in person. All of the voting was done by mail. The President of the United States endorsed in a down-ballot primary race for a sleepy executive branch office with little influence over actual public policy. This primary season was probably the most unusual in North Dakota's history. State Rep. Tom Beadle (R-Fargo) looks to have won the primary for Treasurer over his opponent, Rep. Dan Johnston (R-Kathryn), and on this episode of Plain Talk he spoke out about what it was like to campaign amid coronavirus, and against a candidate who has Donald Trump on his side. "It definitely got weird," Beadle told me. He said at one point, the personal attacks against him - from Johnston's supporters if not the candidate himself - got very ugly and very personal. "They were attacking my wife and I because we haven't been blessed with kids yet," he said. Governor Doug Burgum backed Beadle in a big way, a part of a roughly $2 million effort on his behalf to promote his preferred candidates in the NDGOP primary. "I'm very grateful for the support the governor had for my candidacy," Beadle said. What would he say to those arguing that Burgum bought the election? "I'm a believer that we're the grand old party, a big-tent party," Beadle said, noting that those complaining about the governor's efforts were involved in the Liberty ND PAC. That group, apparently now defunct, was supported by the libertarian-leaning wing of the NDGOP. Beadle also continues to support Trump, despite the president's endorsement of Johnston. "One thing I can say is this administration has been fantastic for North Dakota."
"If Governor Burgum's people win it will be a huge blow to conservatism," state Rep. Rick Becker said on this episode of Plain Talk. Becker is a Republican lawmaker from Bismarck and a founder of the Bastiat Caucus of conservatives in the Legislature. He was responding to a question about Governor Doug Burgum's involvement in the NDGOP primary season. Burgum has backed a number of candidates in contested legislative primaries across the state, as well a state Rep. Thomas Beadle in the NDGOP's nomination race for Treasurer, and he's put about $2 million of his own money behind the effort. Though Burgum is backing mostly candidates endorsed by the local NDGOP districts - incumbent Rep. Jeff Magrum in District 28 is the lone exception - Becker sees problems if Burgum gets his way. "His remaking of the Legislature in his own image is not good for the Republican party. It's not good for the state," Becker said. "I think it's unseemly," he added. "We know he doesn't care about the local party or the process," Becker said, addressing the fact that Burgum is mostly backing NDGOP-endorsed candidates and pointing to the fact that, in 2016, Burgum himself failed to receive the NDGOP's endorsement but campaigned for and won the gubernatorial nomination on the June ballot anyway. Has Burgum been a good Governor? "I don't think he's been horrible," Becker responded, damning the incumbent with some faint praise. Becker says he's liked Burgum's pursuit of efficiencies in the executive branch, and he also liked that Burgum challenged what he described as the "coronation" of Republican Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem as governor in 2016, but that his leadership during the coronavirus pandemic, as one example, hasn't been to his liking. Given Burgum's use of his personal wealth in the 2020 primary campaigns, does Becker think North Dakota needs more restrictions on political money? "I think what he's doing is crap," Becker responded, "but I don't think we need knee-jerk legislative intervention."
Rob and Jay talk about the issues surrounding law enforcement, both locally and nationally.
Zach Raknerud is the endorsed candidate of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL for the U.S. House of Representatives. He also acknowledges that he's the underdog, by a country mile, in his race against Republican incumbent Kelly Armstrong. Still, he credits his recent criticism of what he perceived as Armstrong's silence in the aftermath of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis with getting the incumbent to engage. Raknerud also talks about how our nation can recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, how we can improve race relations and law enforcement, and his plan to diminish the power of big business in politics.
"Good cops know who the bad cops are." That's what Congressman Kelly Armstrong said on this episode of Plain Talk, addressing a question about what we can do to solve the problems with racism and abuse in America's law enforcement agencies. Armstrong, a formal criminal defense attorney, argues that most law enforcement officers are good people doing their best with a tough job. He'd like to see them given incentive to "weed out" the bad apples in their own midst. He also addressed an accusation from his opponent, presumptive Democratic House candidate Zach Rankerud, that he's been silent and inactive during the George Floyd protests. "I don't think he's been paying attention," Armstrong said. "I'm comfortable with my background talking about this."
How do we fix our national problem with law enforcement abuse? There's no single silver bullet that will do it, but on this episode of Plain Talk, Fargo defense attorney (and former cop) Mark Friese says one big step in the right direction would be to end to end the qualified immunity America's courts have created for cops. It's a little complicated, but unless the government waives it the police have immunity from lawsuits unless the courts have established that you have the right you're accusing the cops of violating. So unless you can show the court that you have a right not to have a cop kneel on your neck until you are dead, a lawsuit with that complaint is likely to be dismissed. This makes it "almost impossible" for law enforcement to be held accountable in the civil courts. Friese says other steps, such as removing "incentives for police to treat people inappropriately" and generally winnowing the number of crimes on the books, would also help.
Rob and Jay talk about the riots and protests in Fargo.
On this episode of Plain Talk, Fargo Forum columnist Raheem Williams, who is also a resident of downtown Fargo, talks about living through the violent protests which took place there over the weekend. "I never thought in my life I would have to act as a sentry in my own community," Williams told me. We discussed what he saw and did, how the protests evolved from something peaceful to something ugly, and the frustration which comes from watching a righteous cause get undermined by violent thugs.
Jay and Rob talk about the Fargo Forum reducing its print editions and the controversy surrounding North Dakota's Care19 app.
One of the innovative things the State of North Dakota has done during the coronavirus pandemic is work with a Fargo-based developer ProudCrowd to create a contact tracing app. Contract tracing is an epidemiological technique aimed at tracking where an outbreak is happening and who it is happening to so that policies can be targeted. This allows policymakers to better strike a balance between addressing an outbreak while not unduly burdening the public. Tim Brookins is the founder of ProudCrowd, and on this episode of Plain Talk, he talks about how his app has helped during the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as recent privacy concerns brought by another app developer. Brookins says his company is not selling data, not only because it would be illegal under his contracts with the states of North and South Dakota, but because "it's completely worthless." The data the Care19 app collects is anonymized, and tech giants like Facebook and Google already collect far more detailed data from many, many more people. Is the Care19 app helping respond to the pandemic? Sort of. "We just have a really a really low usage rate," Brookins said, estimating that about 5 percent of North Dakota's population is using the app. Still, in any given instance of infection, the app can be useful in helping track that person's movements. "If it helps just one person it's worth it," Brookins said. He also said his company is working on a second app which will alert users if they've been near someone who later tests positive for the virus.
Rob and Jay talk about absurd coronavirus restrictions.
Gary Emineth is a long-time activist in North Dakota politics, and at one point was the chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party. He was an outspoken supporter of Governor Doug Burgum's 2016 campaign, but he sees problems in Burgum's decision to spend big money defeating other Republicans in primary races. The Governor is "using his wealth as the chief executive to go after the Legislature," Emineth told me, though Burgum has also intervened in a primary competition for the Treasurer's office as well. Emineth has filed the paperwork to form his own political action committee to try and counteract Burgum's efforts.
Brandt Dick is already a superintendent. He works for the public school system in Underwood, North Dakota. He'd like to continue to be a superintendent, albeit of all of North Dakota's public schools. He's asking North Dakota voters to do that this election year. He's one of three candidates for the position on the June primary ballot, along with incumbent Kirsten Baesler and gadfly candidate Charles Tuttle. Asked about Baesler's job performance, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic which prompted statewide school closures, Dick said she's done a "decent job," though he thinks she hasn't been assertive enough. "It seems like there are some times she's allowed the governor to be in control and make decisions," he told me. One area where he's critical is school closures. "Even now two months after we shut down the schools there are still 14 counties that haven't had a case," Dick said. "At what point will the governor give that local control back?" Dick asked. With the school year closing, that may be a moot point now, but more generally Dick says he'd emphasize local control if elected. He became interested in the position of state Superintendent during his work as an advocate for small and rural school districts before the state Legislature. He says he'd like to see fewer decisions made at the state level. Dick also addressed Baesler's recent arrest for driving under the influence. "That's going to be the crux of this race," he told me. "Are [voters] going to say it's time for a change?" "I think I've shown in my career that I am a role model of professionalism," he added. As for his qualifications for the job, he says he's the first acting superintendent to campaign for this job in North Dakota since 1984. He did plan to seek the NDGOP's endorsement for his campaign, though those plans were derailed when the virus caused the party to cancel it's state convention.
On this episode of the Plain Talk podcast, Congressman Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) recounts being lectured about not wearing a mask by a reporter who was wearing a mask, albeit around his neck and not up over his mouth and nose. "All this is turning into a new realm of virtue signaling," he said. Will Congress pass more relief legislation for the COVID-19 pandemic? Armstrong thinks so. "There is going to be more legislation," he said, adding that he hopes it's "targeted" unlike a new proposal being touted by Democrats which has a price tag "north of $2 trillion." "I don't see how that's responsible," Armstrong said. He also addressed the announced closure of the Coal Creek Station power plant, and a federal judge in Montana who created chaos with infrastructure projects across the country with a national injunction he ordered in a suit against the Keystone XL pipeline which is before his court. Will Congress seek to limit the authority of the courts to do that sort of thing? "No," Armstrong said bluntly. "We aren't. I wish we would."
Rob and Jay talk about the recent story about workers, fearful of coronavirus, walking out of their jobs at a Fargo business. Was that story fairly reported?
To hear Ladd Erickson tell it, when Coal Creek Station was built the justification for constructing the power transmission line that services it across acres and acres of prime North Dakota farmland (to the consternation of many farmers at the time) was that the coal plant would generate economic activity. Erickson is the State's Attorney for McLean County, and he believes that if Great River Energy wants to shut down and deconstruct their coal power plant, then they ought to take down their power line too and return the land it's using to farmers. "North Dakota has no economic interested in the power line," he said on this episode of Plain Talk. Coal Creek is North Dakota's largest coal-fired power plant. Great River Energy has said they want to find a buyer for the plant, but if they can't they will shut it down in two years. "We hope they're sincere in this effort to sell the plant," Erickson told me, but added that he doesn't believe they can. That transmission line that serves Coal Creek is extremely valuable. It serves the Minnesota market and, if the coal plant is shut down, could be used to transport power generated by wind turbines, but Erickson doesn't believe Great River should get to do that. "The power plant, the mine, and the power line is all one piece of infrastructure," he says, noting the project was regulated that way when it was built and should be treated that way now, too.
"Opening up our own economy is not enough," Dr. Jeremy Jackson, head of North Dakota State University's Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise, said on this episode of Plain Talk. "We need other places to open up." Jackson is the author of a new forecast for North Dakota's economy which has some grim findings. During the interview, he notes that North Dakota is an export state. Our primary industries produce goods which are then sold outside of the state, and often outside of the country. Without that outside demand, it's going to be hard for North Dakota's economy to recover. What can state policymakers do to address this situation? "I don't know what policy can get us out of this mess we're in," he said. "We need some contingency plans," he added.
A one-two punch from the coronavirus pandemic, as well as a price war in the international oil markets, has hit North Dakota hard. Thousands are losing their jobs. Oil production in the state is tanking, and tax revenues are sure to follow. The latter of the two just-mentioned causes for this was kicked off, in part, by Saudi Arabia. On this episode of Plain Talk Fahad Nazer, spokesman for the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Washington D.C., talks to North Dakotans about his country's approach the oil markets. "We don't engage in policies to attack other sectors or other country's economies," Nazer said.
"I don't know how he could have handled it better." That's what Senator Kevin Cramer said on this episode of Plain Talk in praise of Governor and fellow Republican Doug Burgum's handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in North Dakota. Cramer has also praised President Donald Trump's handling of the crisis. "His actions have demonstrated federalism," the Senator said, referencing Trump's preference that state's take the lead in responding to the virus. Though Cramer acknowledged that Trump's federalism is more apparent in his actions than his words, with the President at times suggesting his office has unlimited power over the country. The Senator also touched on coronavirus relief efforts, his intention to ensure that oil and gun companies in particular are treated fairly by relief policies, as well as the situation around Coal Creek Station in central North Dakota.
Jason Bohrer is President of the Lignite Energy Council, an industry group representing coal interests in North Dakota. His group made a move about, you guessed it, coal. "You get 50 miles outside those coal mines, people don't know much about them," he said, referring to the coal operations in central North Dakota. "What they do know they get from flawed sources." On May 1, at CoalMovie.com, the Lignite folks are releasing a roughly 30-minute film about the history of coal in North Dakota. What it meant in the past, and what it means going forward. Jason also talked about the fraught politics around coal power today, especially with the news that North Dakota's large coal-fired power plant may be closing. "It used to be Republicans and Democrats could sit in a room and talk about energy and there would be friends of coal on both sides," Jason said. "It's not like that anymore." "There are very few people talking about long-term," Jason continued. "The future is more in doubt now than it was five years ago."
Rob and Jay talk about the news of the day.
Rep. Luke Simons is a Republican lawmaker from Dickinson, North Dakota. On Friday, May 1, he plans to re-open his barbershop and he doesn't care what coronavirus-inspired executive orders Governor Doug Burgum may or may not have in place when that day comes. "I don't care if he's the governor. I don't care if he's a billionaire. I am going to practice my freedom," Simons told me on this episode of Plain Talk. "One has the moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws," Simons added. "The governor does not have the executive authority to be a dictator," Simons also said. "I went along with what I will call tyranny for a long time now." Burgum's Commerce Department has been working with state business and industry leaders on a plan to re-open the economy, but so far there has been no official word on when some of the restrictions put in place might start to ease. In the meantime, Simons says it's his right to re-open his business. "I will not pay the fines," he said.
"We are working on the how. We are not working on the when." That's what North Dakota Commerce Commissioner Michelle Kommer said on this episode of Plain Talk. She was speaking about her department's efforts to come up with a plan for re-opening North Dakota's economy. Parts of it, anyway, Slowly. Kommer praised Governor Doug Burgum's "extraordinary wisdom in not going to the shelter-in-place order" despite demands from some. She said that will allow North Dakota to be a bit ahead of other areas as we look to get back to business. The Commerce Department is soliciting input from business and industry leaders on how they can safely re-open so that plans can be open when Burgum decides to back off the restrictions he implemented in response to the pandemic. Kommer also addressed the conclusion of an investigation into alleged criminal wrong-doing in her department over the solicitation and implementation of a new state logo. State Auditor Josh Gallion's office had referred audit findings to law enforcement officials for investigation, but that resulted in no criminal findings. Kommer says she objects to the way the report was handled, saying it was "paralyzing" for her office. She said the result brought "a certain amount of relief" but "also a lot of frustration and maybe a touch of anger."
Jay and Rob talk headlines on WDAY AM-970.
A group of Republican lawmakers in North Dakota is urging Governor Doug Burgum to re-open the state's economy, rescinding or at least letting expire many of the executive orders he's put in place in response to the coronavirus. "The governor, if he opens up, is not going to kill people," Rep. Dan Ruby, a Republican from Minot and leader of that effort, said on this episode of Plain Talk. Ruby says the intent of the government was never to stop everyone from getting the virus. Eventually, everyone will be exposed, he told me. "The government wanted to prevent a spike" in hospitalizations, Ruby said, noting that North Dakota has just 13 people current hospitalized from coronavirus. "Mission accomplished." "I'm not saying everybody should be forced to immediately open," Ruby explained but said it's time to let many businesses open when they feel they can protect their employees and customers.
Senator Kevin Cramer is very hopeful that an international oil cartel is going to work to help stabilize global oil markets. He talked about that issue as well as America's on-going relationship with China and what more Congress might need to do in terms of coronavirus relief on this episode of Plain Talk.
Dr. Shelley Lenz is a veterinarian based in western North Dakota. She's also running unopposed for the North Dakota Democratic-NPL's gubernatorial nomination. "I would have issued it, yes," she said when asked on this episode of Plain Talk about whether she would have issued a "shelter-in-place" order. North Dakota is one of a few states which haven't seen such an order. Incumbent Governor Doug Burgum, a Republican, has resisted calls to issue one. Lenz says she would have, and that overall if she had been in Burgum's place, should have more direct and authoratative orders earlier. Though despite that criticism, Lenz says she's rooting for Burgum, and admits she voted for him in 2016. "All of us want him to do a good job," she said. "None of us want him to fail." Former lawmaker and current farmer Ben Vig, who was recently announced as Lenz's running mate, also joined the interview. He talked about the Legislature's role in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, the challenges North Dakota agriculture is facing, and how Democrats can win back support in rural America.
Rob Port and Jay Thomas talk about whether North Dakota should order a shelter in place during the coronavirus pandemic.
The ACLU of North Dakota, among other organizations, has called on Governor Doug Burgum to issue a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the coronavirus crisis. Dane DeKrey, a spokesman for the ACLU, says it's about protecting renters but not making landlords the bad guys. "We have no interest in trying to screw landlords," DeKrey said on this episode of Plain Talk. What the ACLU would like to see is an executive order which states that individuals can't be evicted, can't be foreclosed on, can't be charged late fees or interest for failure to pay, and can't see their credit rating downgraded. DeKrey says he does still wand landlords to be paid what they're owed, just not right now. "We're asking for a pause button," he added. Why should landlords be forced into a situation where they're providing, at their expense, relief from coronavirus? "That's a good question," DeKrey said, adding that it doesn't have an easy answer.