Updated: N.D. Republicans choose chairman

(Updated 11:05 p.m. Monday to include Kevin Cramer statement at bottom)

The North Dakota Republican Party announced Monday that it unanimously voted for Public Service Commissioner Tony Clark to serve as its next chairman.

"This election cycle presents our party the opportunity to put Gov. John Hoeven and Rep. Rick Berg in Congress and to assert fiscal responsibility in Washington, D.C.," Clark said in a statement sent out by the party. "I am excited with the direction of the party and our crop of candidates and look forward to working with them this fall."

Clark replaces Gary Emineth, who resigned earlier this month to focus on his business interests.

Here is the statement from Democratic Public Service Commission candidate Brad Crabtree:

“Today is a sad day for the Public Service Commission and for the integrity of state government in North Dakota. The nomination of Tony Clark to chair a political party, while actively serving on the PSC, marks a breach of faith with the people of North Dakota by openly politicizing what should be the nonpartisan regulatory role of the PSC.”

“Public Service Commissioners are the closest thing we have to judges in the executive branch of government. North Dakotans have the expectation that their PSC commissioners will review the facts of a case and apply the law in an objective, transparent and nonpartisan fashion, regardless of the political beliefs of those who come before the Commission, or of those who are affected by its decisions. The public cannot have this trust in the PSC when one of its members is publicly serving and advocating for the interests of a particular political party.”

“The decision by Clark to serve in the role of a political party chair marks the latest in a series of disturbing partisan incidents and actions over the past year and a half. Ever since former Commissioner Susan Wefald retired from the PSC in 2008, we have witnessed the transformation of an independent regulatory agency into an openly ideological, partisan and activist enterprise.”

“That Clark would assume such an overtly political role confirms what I have said since announcing my candidacy in February: my opponent Kevin Cramer and his fellow commissioners have lost sight of the critical independent, nonpartisan role a responsible regulatory agency must play. They have debased the Public Service Commission in the process.”

“During my entire professional career in North Dakota, I have never engaged publicly in partisan political activity. If elected, I will dedicate myself to restoring integrity, public trust and nonpartisan accountability to the Public Service Commission.”


Here is the statement from Dem-NPL Chairman Mark Schneider:

"This truly shows the arrogance of the Republican Party in North Dakota right now. Less than 100 days from the election, they made a person their chair who was elected to be an impartial regulator, almost like a judge. Tony Clark will now be traveling around the state soliciting donations from the very people that he is supposed to regulate. That is a clear conflict of interest that hurts the integrity of the Public Service Commission at a time when it is already more partisan than ever. Not to mention the fact that clearly Clark doesn’t think that his taxpayer-funded position is a full time job."

"Two out of three members of the PSC have served or are serving as Republican party chair. Now more than ever we need someone like Brad Crabtree on the Commission, who is not political and is an expert in his field, as opposed to people using the PSC as a stepping stone to higher partisan office. We can’t have the Republican Party being run out of the North Dakota capitol."


Here is the statement from Republican Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer

"The Democrat candidate for the North Dakota Public Service Commission showed again today that he is void of any substance and settles for more shallow partisan demagoguery. Absent of any real criticism of the current PSC members, Brad Crabtree grasped at more straws tonight in another harshly partisan statement about the election of Tony Clark to serve as Chairman of the ND GOP. In addition, he demonstrated his ignorance of political facts. Crabtree said having a PSC Commissioner serve as a state party chairman is “unprecedented.” A good Public Service Commissioner must know the facts before passing judgment. Nebraska Public Service Commissioner Anne Boyle was elected as Chairwoman of the Nebraska Democrat Party in 1998, two years after her election to the PSC. She still serves on the PSC. Brad better get better at homework if he expects to keep up with the rigors of being a Public Service Commissioner.


Brad’s claim that the ND PSC has become too partisan is an attempt to divert attention away from the truth. While ND has had three Republican Commissioners for a decade, we have never had a decision overturned on appeal either by a state or federal court. The citizens of North Dakota know their Public Service Commissioners make decisions based on facts, not politics. There is mounting evidence that Brad Crabtree will be unable to offer the same objective decision making. Ever since getting the Democrat endorsement all he has done is whined about the Republican makeup of the PSC while avoiding the complicated issues and impressive record of achievement by the current Commission.


He has attempted to forward a couple of policies which would increase utility rates and hurt North Dakota’s economy, which might explain why his party has convinced him to issue harsh political attacks rather than defend left-wing policies. I have never been embarrassed to be a Republican, and am proud of the record of accomplishment of the ND PSC and other GOP officials serving in the state capitol. I have argued passionately for policies that have made North Dakota stronger and better. I have been just as passionate in opposition to liberal policies which would devastate our economy and national security. If that is being too political, so be it. I’d rather stand up for North Dakota than sit back and let Washington policies harm us.


North Dakota is the envy of the world with our development of coal, oil, gas, and wind energy. Our comprehensive energy policies have made ND the state of choice for investment and good jobs. We’ve done that while protecting our environmental and cultural resources and our citizens. Furthermore, we have the lowest residential electricity rates in the nation. When one considers North Dakota’s position in the world it is easy to see why the Democrats won’t debate the real issues but would rather lob grenades in hopes of blowing something up. It won’t work. North Dakotans know me and they know I will fight for the things they believe in and won’t be bashful about the bedrock principles which have made our state strong.


What do you think of Clark being selected as chairman?