Historians, political scientists, Dems weigh in on Hoeven

BISMARCK – John Hoeven’s 10 years as governor provide a long and detailed record for historians to study, said a spokesman for the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

Although many – including Hoeven himself – say it’s too soon to know how history will remember him, we asked political scientists, historians and Democrats to provide early input on Hoeven’s tenure.

The historians

One known fact is Hoeven’s remarkable popularity, said Rick Collin of the State Historical Society. After 10 years in politics, Hoeven won his U.S. Senate seat last month with 76 percent of the vote.

Hoeven is “highly disciplined” and rarely makes public stumbles, Collin said. One exception is 2002’s “Pheasantgate,” when Hoeven reversed his decision to begin pheasant season a week earlier after opposition arose, Collin said.

Although some say the state’s economy boomed regardless of Hoeven, Collin said there’s more to it than that. Other states with large oil reserves, such as California and Oklahoma, are “deep in budget crisis,” Collin said.

The Hoeven administration’s long-range planning helped position North Dakota, he said.

Increasing wages and growing the population are ongoing issues with room for improvement, Collin said. But overall, he thinks history will look favorably at Hoeven.

“It takes the passage of time to really see how policies and programs that he’s enacted play out in the long run,” Collin said.

Fargo historian David Danbom also thinks history will judge Hoeven well. He said Hoeven represents a disappearing breed of North Dakota Republicans.

“As is true in the rest of the country, North Dakota seems to be moving to the right,” Danbom said. “It will remain to be seen in the long run whether there will be places for (moderate) people like that.”

Political scientists

North Dakota is an outlier from the political science perspective in that it’s a small state with a part-time citizen Legislature, said Nick Bauroth of North Dakota State University.

There’s also not a tradition of “going above and beyond,” he said. Therefore, those things need to be considered when reflecting on the governor’s impact, he said.

“He’s not going to be doing what somebody would be doing in New York state or California or New Jersey,” Bauroth said. “As a governor, he certainly has done a good job. He has done a job he was elected to do … but in North Dakota, that means you’re not going to be leaving a deep footprint.”

Steven Doherty of Dickinson State University said Hoeven has been good at taking stands and making them fit for a conservative state. However, he doesn’t think Hoeven has made a good platform of talking about social issues.

“Once he is a senator voting on Supreme Court nominees and things like that, I think he’ll have to identify himself more clearly,” Doherty said.


Hoeven was a good fiscal leader and “did as much as any governor can do,” said former Democratic Lt. Gov. Lloyd Omdahl of Grand Forks. He also performed in “a political vacuum” since he hasn’t had much opposition, Omdahl said.

Hoeven’s 2008 opponent, Sen. Tim Mathern of Fargo, said Hoeven didn’t lead in human services, except where it met an economic-development need. However, he did lead in other Democratic priority areas, like education funding, Mathern said.

“John’s been able to kind of support Democratic initiatives while he’s also telling Republicans that he’s Republican,” Mathern said.

He thinks Hoeven’s move to senator will help the state learn more about him.

“I think maybe the greatest test for John Hoeven now is really the future,” Mathern said.

2 thoughts on “Historians, political scientists, Dems weigh in on Hoeven

  1. Well written. I hope that Hoeven will transfer his experience and success onto Capitol Hill, where everything is so much in disarray that it scares people. Do you have any idea regarding his ancestory (where his family originated)? I believe a good part of his hard work has something to do with it….

    Looking forward to more postings from you and have a nice week. JS

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