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NDGOP elects anti-vaccine activist to RNC, endorses Christian homeschooling advocate for superintendent

FARGO — In the Republican Party, every state elects members to sit on the Republican National Committee. These elections happen at state conventions, such as

the one the North Dakota Republican Party is holding this weekend.

Both Shane Goettle, a traditional Republican, and Lori Hinz, a populist who

helped lead the failed attempt to disenfranchise delegates

earlier at this event, were up for reelection. Hinz didn’t face opposition, but Goettle did.

Dr. Steve Nagel — an anti-vaccine activist and talk radio host from the Bismarck-Mandan area, who is the poster child for why chiropractors shouldn’t be allowed to refer to themselves as “doctor” — took on Goettle. And, somewhat cold-bloodedly, Hinz endorsed Nagel, despite working alongside Goettle at the RNC for years.

Politics, as they say, ain’t beanbag.

(Nagel got a big laugh from the crowd, and myself, with his video presentation, flashing a picture of me up along with cable news host Rachel Maddow as examples of “fake news.”)

In a sign of the fading vestiges of traditional conservatism in the North Dakota Republican Party, and the rising power of the populist faction, Goettle lost.

It was a landslide, with 920 voting for Nagel, and just 550 for Goettle.

After several endorsements in uncontested races — insurance commissioner, treasurer, public service commissioner and auditor — the convention moved on to the question of an endorsing letter for state superintendent.

That office isn’t officially partisan, but traditionally the candidates seek the endorsement of Republicans.

The incumbent, Kirsten Baesler, is up against James Bartlett, a home-schooling advocate who plastered the convention venue with signs promising that the candidate will “Bring Back the Ten Commandments.”

“One of James’ top priorities is to reinstall the Ten Commandments in the public schools,” Bob Disney, the man who gave Bartlett’s first endorsing speech said. This got what could almost be described as a standing ovation from the crowd.

“The Ten Commandments should be the first lesson for children before they learn about the rest of the world,” he continued.

The weary delegates were then treated to a rambling speech from Bartlett himself, who had to extemporize because Charles Tuttle, who was to deliver his seconding speech, couldn’t be located.

“What you’re going to be able to decide between is someone who is going to return the schools to the original intent of the constitution and an incumbent who is enabling a leftist agenda,” Bartlett told the delegates, referring to Baesler. He made it clear that his goal is to make North Dakota’s schools a welcoming place for Christians, and not really anybody else.

Tuttle finally showed up — he told the delegates he was off getting an insulin shot — and said some things about Bill Gates and common core and gender confusion that I would relate to you but for the fact that it was such an incoherent harangue I couldn’t make heads or tails of the point he was trying to get across.

He did call North Dakota’s public schools “evil” repeatedly. That part certainly came through loud and clear.

As for Baesler? She delivered a data-driven presentation making the case for her performance as superintendent to a crowd that was clearly looking for performative condemnation of “woke” education policies.

She lost, 967-426.

Bartlett celebrated his victory by singing a hymn from the podium.

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service with an extensive background in investigations and public records. He covers politics and government in North Dakota and the upper Midwest. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.

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