Home / Exclusives / Shale Plays Exclusive: Interview with ND Republican Party Executive Director Jason Flohrs
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Shale Plays Exclusive: Interview with ND Republican Party Executive Director Jason Flohrs

As November 4th approaches, both Democrats and Republicans are scrambling to reach constituents about the importance of voting in the midterm elections. Historically, midterm elections procure a lower turnout, but this November, getting out to vote is more important than ever before. Voters are faced with big decisions on the ballot that could drastically affect not only the oil and gas industry in North Dakota, but funding for infrastructure, tax relief and the continuation of North Dakota’s future growth.

Shale Plays Media spoke yesterday to Jason Flohrs, Executive Director of the Republican Party in North Dakota. We talked to him about the GOP’s efforts to get their supporters out to vote.

SPM: We’ve seen lots of campaigning going on and some pretty close races. What do you find to be some of the tightest races in this election?

JF: One of the hottest races is probably the race for agriculture commissioner between our Republican incumbent, Doug Goehring and the challenger, Ryan Taylor. This race is critical for the future of North Dakota. It’s about looking forward and continuing on a path of prosperity that we’ve set our state on versus going back to the failed policies of the past that didn’t work then and that certainly won’t work now. For the last twenty years, our Republican majorities in the legislature and our Republican statewide officials have done a great job creating the environment and the regulatory framework so that oil and gas and other forms of development can take place, and the state has really taken off because of it. Candidates from the Democratic side, especially Taylor, for example, want to change that. They don’t want to have business-friendly policies in place, but instead they want to take the national Democrats’ visions of extreme regulation and bring that to North Dakota and get in the way of everything good that’s going on here.

SMP: I know oil and gas development in the western part of the state is a huge part of that ag commissioner race. If Ryan Taylor were to be elected, what specific things do you think might change?

JH: By his own admission in the book he published, he’s a “tree-hugging liberal.” He would be another vote for the extreme environmental regulations that you see coming out of the Obama administration through the EPA. They have a self-proclaimed war on coal, and that could easily be translated into a war on the very development taking place in North Dakota that has led to the prosperity that we see today. Obama’s own Secretary of Interior praised North Dakota’s current common sense regulation as a model for the nation. The Democrats want to bring more regulation to our industries, taking away the common sense approach that we’ve taken, making it hard to do business and slowing down that development. And that’s a bad thing for North Dakota. We have exemplary common sense regulations that protect landowners and protect our environment while at the same time taking advantage of the natural resources that we’ve been blessed with. Doug Goehring brings breadth and depth of knowledge to the office from a lifetime of farming and production of agriculture. He can speak to and defend what agriculture in North Dakota needs because he’s been a part of it for so long. At the same time, he’s been on the front line of developing the oil and gas reserves that we have in our state and putting in place those common sense regulations that are so important in protecting our environment and our people.

SMP: Do you see Measure 5, the Clean Water, Wildlife, and Parks Amendment, as an issue that affects the ag commissioner race?

JH: Measure 5 does have some impact on the ag commissioner race, but it’s not so much about regulation.  Measure 5 would put in the Constitution a mandate to spend a certain percentage of extraction tax dollars on environmental projects and out-of-state projects like those of the Sierra Club, who continually attempt to shut down fracking. The concern is when those types of groups have control of North Dakota tax dollars, they want to spend it on yet-to-be-named environmental projects. Both candidates have come out against Measure 5. Doug has been very vocal about this issue and has spent his time as ag commissioner standing up for the rights of landowners who are in the middle of all this oil development.

SMP: In addition to the position of ag commissioner, are there other issues or races that are important to the Republican Party that we need to pay attention to?

From a big picture perspective, it’s our Republican majorities in the legislature that have really put in place the policies that have led to the amazing growth and development that we’re seeing in North Dakota. Other states are blessed with natural resources, but we’ve found a way to encourage that development while at the same time protecting our land and water. We’ve made historic investments in infrastructure, in K-12 education, higher education, and we’ve been able to provide over $1 billion of broad-based property and income tax directly to the citizens of North Dakota. Our prosperity is in large part due to the Republican leadership over the last several years.

SMP: With the rapid growth in North Dakota, what do you see as some of the challenges that we will need to address in the upcoming Congress?

There are challenges that come with the rapid changes we’ve seen. So far, we’ve allocated over $2 billion for various infrastructure projects out west, from bridges and roads to water to cities and counties to address the needs that they have. We’ve brought more law enforcement to deal with the increase in traffic on the roads. People have been critical of the challenges that come with this growth. But you have to take a step back and say, would you rather deal with the challenges that come with the growth, or would you want to go back 20 years like Ryan Taylor and the Democrats would have us do and deal with the challenge of everyone leaving the state, with nothing going on to keep future generations here?

Another issue that’s critical for North Dakota is the development of the Keystone Pipeline. The Federal Government is standing in the way of this infrastructure that is the safest way to transport oil. It would get trucks off the road, and it will take all of those rail cars standing in the way of ag producers in the state away by transferring the oil by pipeline instead.

SMP: To keep the Republican leadership in place, it’s essential to get people to the polls. What have you been doing on your end to encourage people out there to vote, and what barriers have you encountered in getting Republicans to vote during this midterm election?

JH: While there might not be a big marquis race on the ballot, like a US senator race or a presidential election which would help turn out voters, we’re talking a lot about how critical the midterms are. It’s a question of whether we want to continue on a path of growth and prosperity or go back to failed policies. Making that clear, and making them aware of how critical that is, even in a midterm election, will get them to the polls. We’ve run a robust voter education program, including a 7-city statewide bus tour and tried to reach out to the general population to make sure our voters understand what we stand for and what it means if they don’t return to office. Phone calls, a massive postcard and absentee voter campaign, and even a big push via social media also helped us get the word out in every way imaginable.

SPM: The last polls, now about two weeks old, showed Doug Goehring about 10-18 points ahead of Taylor. Do you think Republicans still have an edge?

I think generally speaking, across the board, all the polls including independent news agencies as well as our own internal polls, have generally shown good sized leads for our candidates. All those leads, though, are predicated on our voters turning out to vote. Everyone who is concerned about North Dakota from the growth of our industries to the funding of education and infrastructure needs to get out and vote. Things have been going well in North Dakota, but it won’t continue if Republicans are not reelected. That’s why you see our candidates working so hard to get the word out in this election cycle—to make sure the voters are educated. When you have candidates with a record of accomplishment like ours do this year, that’s a record that you want to campaign on. But I’ve played college sports, and never once with a big lead in the third quarter of a basketball game, did I ever stop and just quit. You always play until the end, and that’s what we’re doing.

12 comments

  1. Keystone. Right. That will solve everything. The pipelines already in the ground aren’t being used to full capacity, because they don’t go where the Bakken producers want, but Keystone is a good talking point.

    November 30, 2012 – Oneok cancels plans to build the “Bakken Crude Express” pipeline after a lack of long-term volume commitments by Bakken oil companies.

    January 21, 2014 – The “Dakota Express” pipeline, proposed in June 2013 by Koch Pipeline, is canceled due to lack of Bakken oil company commitments.

    Neither of the candidates are willing to stand up to the oil lobby, and demand that the Bakken oil trains do not carry “highly explosive gases” (Congressman Kevin Cramers words), such as propane and butane, in the same tanker cars as the flamable crude.

    But, ND emergency managers say there will only be 60-70 deaths, if a Bakken oil trains derails & explodes in Bismarck or Fargo, so no worries…

  2. “as Nov.5th approaches”? The rest of the country votes Nov.4th. :/

  3. All I can say I will be glad when this stuff is finally over this is one of the dirtiest elections that I have ever seen and the amount of money being spent is crazy , It just proves that if you want to win a election you have to have money to buy your way in, the poor little guy doesn’t even stand a chance it’s going to be interesting to see who gets bounced and who don’t ,Washington can’t get any worse than it has been personally I would love to see everyone gone and start from scratch there’s not a dam one there that cares about the middle class they all have the millionaires in their back pockets and they love to threaten everyone with cuts in SS and medicare they don’t have to worry about it they get their for free anyway the biggest problem is the people who will be voting have blinders on and will still vote some of these idiots back in again

  4. It’s all about the money, only money. The people? The environment? The country? Nope!

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  6. You folks should be voting to ban fracking- you’re going to have long-lasting environmental and health problems long after the rigs leave. http://www.alternet.org/radioactive-waste-dumped-oil-companies-seeping-out-ground-north-dakota

  7. You folks should be voting to ban fracking- you’re going to have long-lasting environmental and health problems long after the rigs leave. http://www.alternet.org/radioactive-waste-dumped-oil-companies-seeping-out-ground-north-dakota

  8. You got it going, don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

  9. While walking down the street one day a Corrupt Senator was tragically hit by a car and died. His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.
    “Welcome to heaven,” says St. Peter. “Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we’re not sure what to do with you.”
    “No problem, just let me in,” says the Senator.
    “Well, I’d like to, but I have orders from the higher ups.
    What we’ll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven.
    Then you can choose where to spend eternity.”
    “Really?, I’ve made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,” says the Senator.
    “I’m sorry, but we have our rules.”
    And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.
    The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course.
    In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.
    Everyone is very happy and in evening dress.
    They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people.
    They played a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and the finest champagne.
    Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who is having a good time dancing and telling jokes.
    They are all having such a good time that before the Senator realizes it, it is time to go.
    Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises.
    The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens in heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him, “Now it’s time to visit heaven…”
    So, 24 hours passed with the Senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing.
    They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.
    “Well, then, you’ve spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.”
    The Senator reflects for a minute, then he answers:
    Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.”
    So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell…
    Now the doors of the elevator open and he’s in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage.
    He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.
    The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulders.
    “I don’t understand,” stammers the Senator.
    “Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time.
    Now there’s just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?”
    The devil smiles at him and says,
    “Yesterday we were campaigning, Today, you voted..”
    Vote wisely November 4TH.

    A funny thing happens when you shoot for the moon… YOU GET THERE!

    In the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it.

    http://www.facebook.com/RealSpaceAct2013

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