Some western North Dakota Democrats think the oil patch region may be approaching a tipping point in which they could make inroads into the Legislature.
District 2 Democrats Chairman LuAnn Casler and her husband, Michael Casler, said Friday the people in the region are becoming fed up with increases in crime, traffic and rent in the oil patch.
If the Democrats were to field more candidates, LuAnn Casler said, people in the region that historically has been dominated by Republicans may be open to giving the Democrats a shot.
“I just hope people don’t get complacent,” LuAnn Casler said of the 2014 election. “They (voters) need to stop and think … ‘Are they really working for me?’”
However, the party currently lacks announced candidates in western oil patch districts.
LuAnn Casler said the state should have spaced out the pace of drilling in the oil patch from the onset for infrastructure to keep pace with record oil production and build out of the communities in the region.
She said providing more money to the West would allow the communities to address their growing pains rather than build the state’s rainy day funds or allocate to eastern communities.
LuAnn Casler said it’s a winning investment.
“You pay it forward and we’re going to give it back. There’s enough to go around,” she said.
The current balance has approximately 75 percent of gross production tax money going back to the state and 25 percent to the oil patch counties.
Michael Casler said one thing that could add to residents’ ire in the oil patch is the coming advertising campaign to draw more people to North Dakota to fill thousands of jobs.
The ad campaign is expected to begin in May, using private dollars and matching state dollars. Michael Casler said a recent report from an apartment guide showed Williston as having the highest rent in the nation due to a shortage of housing and intense demand.
With that in mind, an effort to draw thousands more to the state is “ill-advised,” he said.
“Are you serious?” Michael Casler said. “Yeah, you can come to North Dakota and make $100,000 a year, but you’re going to pay $60,000 for housing. ... So you’re coming here and working for (virtually) nothing.”
‘Amend it, don’t end it’
Democratic-NPL Party convention delegate Bruce Hagen said his party’s incumbents in Congress and those running as challengers shouldn’t shy away from supporting the federal health care law.
Hagen, a former long-time North Dakota Public Service Commissioner, compared the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s implementation to Social Security in the 1930s and Medicare in the 1960s. He said history is on the Democrats’ side.
Hagen said despite website issues when the open enrollment period began and delays for various elements of implementation the program will have a positive role in people’s lives in the long term.
“The Republicans are going to say ‘Obamacare; it’s all terrible,’” Hagen said. “Amend it, don’t end it. We need strong social safety nets that protect everyone in the United States.”