It was a difference of one vote that elected Rep. David ‘Skip” Drovdal, R-Arnegard, as speaker of the North Dakota House for the 62nd Legislative Assembly.
It took multiples rounds of voting and a suspension of the rules to settle on Drovdal over Kathy Hawken of Fargo and Larry Bellew of Minot.
The first round of voting in the House Republican caucus Monday night would eliminate Bellew, but Republicans would have to vote four more times before electing Drovdal with 33 votes to Hawken’s 32.
Traditional caucus rules require the speaker to be elected with a simple majority of the total caucus, in this case 35 votes. But with four members absent, both candidates were having trouble reaching that number.
After voting three times without any of the three getting the full majority, the caucus voted to suspend the rules and allow a majority of the voting members present, giving Drovdal the one-vote edge over Hawken.
“My door will always be open for you,” Drovdal said after the two-hour meeting and voting process. “Now let’s go home.”
Drovdal, 65, is retired, but he has farmed and owned both a furniture and hardware store. He has served in the House since 1993. As speaker, it will be his job to assign bills to committees and moderate debate on the floor. He will be’ responsible for recognizing members of both parties to speak.
“We need to be fair and open,” Drovdal said of dealing with his Democratic counterparts. “They were elected by the people and we need to respect that.”
The House Republican caucus also re-elected its previous majority leader and assistant majority leader: Reps. Al Carlson of Fargo and Don Vigesaa of Cooperstown. Both were unchallenged.
"People voted for us for a reason and it's up to us not to let them down — and we won't," said Carlson, adding that the party would fund priorities while promoting fiscal responsibility.
Carlson will be in charge of keeping tabs on the Republicans’ large majority. They hold 69 seats of 94.
"With a large caucus, we need someone who can herd cats," said Rep. Chet Pollert of Carrington.
Rep. Mike Nathe of Bismarck was elected as the next House Republican caucus chairman.
"With a big caucus comes big responsibility," Nathe said, that his plans to help incoming freshmen legislators were forming.
The Senate Republican caucus also met Monday night for voting, but all of its previous leaders ran unchallenged.
Sen. Bob Stenehjem of Bismarck was re-elected to Senate majority leader while Sen. Randy Christmann of Hazen was re-elected as his assistant. Sen. Jerry Klein will once again serve as the caucus chairman.
(Reach reporter Rebecca Beitsch at 250-8255 or 223-8482 or email@example.com.)