BISMARCK â€“ John Hoevenâ€™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 â€“ including Hoeven himself â€“ say itâ€™s too soon to know how history will remember him, we asked political scientists, historians and Democrats to provide early input on Hoevenâ€™s tenure.
One known fact is Hoevenâ€™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 â€œhighly disciplinedâ€ and rarely makes public stumbles, Collin said. One exception is 2002â€™s â€œPheasantgate,â€ when Hoeven reversed his decision to begin pheasant season a week earlier after opposition arose, Collin said.
Although some say the stateâ€™s economy boomed regardless of Hoeven, Collin said thereâ€™s more to it than that. Other states with large oil reserves, such as California and Oklahoma, are â€œdeep in budget crisis,â€ Collin said.
The Hoeven administrationâ€™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.
â€œIt takes the passage of time to really see how policies and programs that heâ€™s enacted play out in the long run,â€ Collin said.
Fargo historian David Danbom also thinks history will judge Hoeven well. He said Hoeven represents a disappearing breed of North Dakota Republicans.
â€œAs is true in the rest of the country, North Dakota seems to be moving to the right,â€ Danbom said. â€œIt will remain to be seen in the long run whether there will be places for (moderate) people like that.â€
North Dakota is an outlier from the political science perspective in that itâ€™s a small state with a part-time citizen Legislature, said Nick Bauroth of North Dakota State University.
Thereâ€™s also not a tradition of â€œgoing above and beyond,â€ he said. Therefore, those things need to be considered when reflecting on the governorâ€™s impact, he said.
â€œHeâ€™s not going to be doing what somebody would be doing in New York state or California or New Jersey,â€ Bauroth said. â€œAs a governor, he certainly has done a good job. He has done a job he was elected to do â€¦ but in North Dakota, that means youâ€™re not going to be leaving a deep footprint.â€
Steven Doherty of Dickinson State University said Hoeven has been good at taking stands and making them fit for a conservative state. However, he doesnâ€™t think Hoeven has made a good platform of talking about social issues.
â€œOnce he is a senator voting on Supreme Court nominees and things like that, I think heâ€™ll have to identify himself more clearly,â€ Doherty said.
Hoeven was a good fiscal leader and â€œdid as much as any governor can do,â€ said former Democratic Lt. Gov. Lloyd Omdahl of Grand Forks. He also performed in â€œa political vacuumâ€ since he hasnâ€™t had much opposition, Omdahl said.
Hoevenâ€™s 2008 opponent, Sen. Tim Mathern of Fargo, said Hoeven didnâ€™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.
â€œJohnâ€™s been able to kind of support Democratic initiatives while heâ€™s also telling Republicans that heâ€™s Republican,â€ Mathern said.
He thinks Hoevenâ€™s move to senator will help the state learn more about him.
â€œI think maybe the greatest test for John Hoeven now is really the future,â€ Mathern said.