North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party

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North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party
Chairperson Kylie Oversen
Senate leader Mac Schneider
House leader Kenton Onstad
Founded 1956 (1956)
Headquarters Kennedy Center
1902 East Divide Ave
Bismarck, ND 58501
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Ideology Liberalism
Social liberalism
National affiliation Democratic Party
Colors Blue
Seats in the Upper House
16 / 47
Seats in the Lower House
23 / 94
Politics of North Dakota
Political parties

The North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party (abbreviated Democratic-NPL, Dem-NPL) is the North Dakota affiliate of the Democratic Party of the United States. This political organization is the outcome of a merger of two parties; the state previously had a three-party political system.


The North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party has roots in the Progressive Era of American history. Led by lawyers, merchants, editors, and professors, progressives of the time joined both the Republican Party, which had strong control of state politics, as well as the state Democratic Party, the progressive faction of which called itself "the party of the laborer and the farmer."[1] Although their cooperation did not impair North Dakota's staunch allegiance to the Republican Party, progressives found some support in the Norwegian-settled eastern part of the state.[1] By 1906, Progressive roots were growing in opposition to what many saw as complete control of state politics by the railroads of the day.[1] The initial organization and calls for reform laid a foundation that would soon grow into a statewide socialist workers' movement.

1906 through 1915

The next nine years were marked by a series of revolutionary progressive successes, starting with John Burke's election as governor in 1906. Alexander McKenzie's conservative political machine controlled the Senate, but the House of Representatives was filled with progressive Democrats and Republicans, who managed to introduce many anti-railroad bills against staunch opposition by lobbyists. Many Progressive reforms and legislation were passed during this time, including a direct primary law, a joint resolution for a constitutional amendment for initiative and referendum power, a public library commission law, and laws to enforce prohibition. Subsequent years would see the end of Alexander McKenzie and his Republican political machine. By 1908, the first State electoral primaries solidified his retirement. That year the Republican Party, free from McKenzie's conservative influence, crafted an extremely progressive party platform. Progressive Democratic Governor John Burke remained in position with Republican votes.[1]

North Dakota again proved its progressive sympathies in 1912, when the state held the first United States Presidential Preference Primary on March 19.[1] North Dakota Republicans favored progressive presidential candidate Robert M. La Follette over Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Though an angry Roosevelt formed the Progressive Party after losing the Republican nomination to Taft, he had little support from North Dakota, where many Progressives distrusted his backers, George Walbridge Perkins of the J.P. Morgan group and International Harvester. Because of such opposition, Woodrow Wilson carried the state in November. Republican Louis B. Hanna was elected governor in 1912 and 1914. Once in office, he and his legislative allies halted the creation of a state-operated grain elevator, which may have convinced progressives to unite in 1915.[1]

Rise of the Non-Partisan League

When Arthur C. Townley came to Bismarck, North Dakota in 1915, he saw strife between a conservative legislature and farmers' interest groups. With his background in organizing farmers for the Socialist Party, Socialist activity had begun in North Dakota in 1900 when Arthur Basset organized a socialist club in Fargo.[1] Townley brought his expertise to North Dakota.[2] He knew that with the recent strife in Bismarck between a conservative legislature and the American Society of Equity and its farm following, the time was ripe for a political revolution. Townley resolved to organize the farmers, so that they could control the primaries, whether it be Republicans or Democrats or both. This was the organization of the Farmers Nonpartisan League (later called the National Nonpartisan League). Townley organized the farmers of the state together for united action in nominating at the primaries and electing at the polls the men of their own choosing and men who would carry out their programs.[2]

The Method of Organization was simple, scientific and successful. Organizers carefully went forth in ever increasing numbers to sell the idea to the farmers and to get their support for the new movement. The league grew in leaps and bounds. The first members were pledged in February 1915. Before midsummer, there were 10,000 members, and before winter set-in, there were 26,000 names enrolled.[2]

The Nonpartisan League membership pledge was $2.50 a year, it later rose to nine dollars a year. The goals of the league were to use their collective best efforts to secure the nomination and election of men for office within the state. Men whom the investigations of the League have show by conviction, record and conduct do approve and will support legislation necessary for the purpose of saving millions of dollars each year for the farmer and were to be nominated and elected to carry out the league program.[2]

The League Program was concise and to the point. It consisted of five planks, as follows:

  1. State Owned and Operated elevators, flour mills, and packing plants
  2. State hail insurance
  3. Exemption of farm improvements from taxation
  4. Fair grain grades, based upon milling and baking values
  5. Rural Credits at cost

Each was designed to remedy what the farmers conceived as an abuse, and each was to lower the cost of producing and marketing grain.[2]

The determination of the league fulfilled their pledge and many of their planks passed legislation. The growth of far left sympathies was on the rise in North Dakota. The Socialists had considerable success. They brought in many outside speakers; Eugene V. Debs spoke at a large antiwar rally at Garrison in 1915. By 1912, there were 175 Socialist locals in the state. Rugby and Hillsboro elected Socialist mayors. The party had even established a weekly paper, the Iconoclast, in Minot, North Dakota.[1]

Throughout the decades, the League pushed for the establishments of State operated mills, elevators, and banks. While the state was not entirely isolationist, just as it was neither entirely liberal nor entirely conservative. By 1952, the Non-partisan league was itself divided.

Toward a two-party system

Two factions divided the traditionally liberal Nonpartisan League, on one side the insurgents on the other the old guard.[1] Those that called themselves insurgents aligned liberally with pro-farmers’ union, pro-organized labor, and pro-Democratic party groups. The Insurgents wanted to take the league into the Democratic Party. In 1952, the “insurgents” formed the Volunteers for Stevenson Committee, to help elect then Democratic Candidate Adlai Stevenson. To the contrary the members of the old guard, also known as the Capitol Crowd, were more conservative, anti-farmers’ union, antilabor, and pro-Republican segment of the league, these members wanted to keep the Nonpartisan league in the Republican Party; they supported Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1952 presidential race. Over the next four years legislative polarization grew and the nonpartisan league party eventually split in two, in 1956 North Dakota was fundamentally realigned into a two party system. That year, the Nonpartisan league finally moved into the Democratic Party, and all Republicans joined in one organization. Two statewide parties vied for the votes of North Dakota citizens. Creation of the Democratic Nonpartisan League Party was codified in March during the League Convention, 173 to 3 voted yes to file candidates in the Democratic column. The new party introduced a full slate of candidates for state office and adopted a liberal platform that included the repeal of the Taft–Hartley Act, creation of a minimum $1.25 an hour wage, and a graduated land tax on property worth $20,000 or more. Two months later in May 1956 the Democratic Convention accepted the Nonpartisan League’s candidates and adopted its platform. Republicans in North Dakota also united after conservative supports broke away from the league.[1]

Although the Democratic Party was still the minority, the number of Democrats in the state legislature increased greatly. Before the league moved into the Democratic Party, there were only five Democrats among the 162 members of both houses of the legislature in 1955. In 1957 the number grew to 28, 1959 the numbers continued to grow reaching 67, despite a drop to 62 members in 1961, nevertheless, for the first time in history, North Dakota was becoming a two-party state.[1]

Recent events

North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate of all 50 states, for a variety of reasons. Most important is the variable of population. North Dakota citizens number 672,591, ranking third-smallest in population in the United States. A small migration of unemployed people from other parts of the United States are headed to North Dakota according to recent studies.[3] A USA Today study points out some of the state’s largest cities are growing even larger.[4]

Economists are both impressed by and speculative of the reasons for the state's resiliency with respect to recent economic hardships most governments and citizens are experiencing. The Nonpartisan League laid a foundation of enriched public ownership and responsibility in such institutions as a state bank. One study has drawn conclusions that publicly operated institutions such as the state bank have helped North Dakota weather these economic storms.[5]

The Bank of North Dakota was created to address market failures associated with monopoly power among large financial and business institutions in the early twentieth century. This market power meant that small farming operations had inadequate access to credit. One of the goals of the Nonpartisan League was to remedy limited access to credit by establishing this institution. A measure of the public good brought about by the Bank's establishment that still stands today is what some have identified as the Bank's role in reducing the impact of economic recession. The public-private relationship establishes roles assigned according to what each sector does best, allowing the mutual benefit of public and private banks balancing out inequality and building equality, thus creating an economic safety net for North Dakota citizens. These early roots of the Democratic-Nonpartisan League party have been celebrated for establishing a foundation that rights the state in times of national crisis and provides economic security to generations of the state's farmers.

Electoral history

Members of the State House

The Democratic-NPL Party fully represents 9 of North Dakota's 47 legislative districts in the House of Representatives with two members and shares representation with the Republicans in 7 additional districts, for a total of 25 Democratic-NPL house members.

The 25 members are as follows:[6]

Representative District
Tom Conklin 4th
Kenton Onstad 4th
Bob Hunskor 6th
Tracy Boe 9th
Marvin E. Nelson 9th
Ron Guggisberg 11th
Scot Kelsh 11th
Lyle Hanson 12th
Joe Kroeber 12th
Robert J. 'Tork' Kilichowski 16th
Eliot Glassheim 18th
Lonny B. Winrich 18th
Richard G. 'Rick' Holman 20th
Lee A. Kaldor 20th
Kathy L. Hogan 21st
Steve Zaiser 21st
Ralph Metcalf 24th
Phillip 'Phil' Mueller 24th
Clark Williams 25th
Bill Amerman 26th
Jerome G. 'Jerry' Kelsh 26th
Shirley J. Meyer 36th
Corey Mock 42nd
Lois Delmore 43rd
Ed Gruchalla 45th

Members of the State Senate

The 12 members of the State Senate are as follows:[7]

Senator District
John Warner 4th
David O'Connell 6th
Ryan Taylor 7th
Richard Marcellais 9th
Tim Mathern 11th
Constance 'Connie' Triplett 18th
Philip M. Murphy 20th
Carolyn Nelson 21st
Joan Heckaman 23rd
Larry J. Robinson 24th
Jim Dotzenrod 26th
Erin Oban 35th
Mac Schneider 42nd

U.S. House of Representatives

1st congressional district

2nd congressional district

At-large Representative

U.S. Senate history

Class I

Class III

See also


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Robinson, Elwyn (1966). History of North Dakota. University of Nebraska Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Tostlebe, Alvin (1969). The Bank of North Dakota: An experiment in agrarian banking. New York: AMS Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "North Dakota QuickFacts". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved December 5, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Cauchon, Dennis (March 17, 2011). "North Dakota economy booms, population soars". USA Today. Retrieved December 5, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Kodrzycki, Yolanda K; Elmatad, Tal (May 2011). The Bank of North Dakota: A model for Massachusetts and other states? (PDF) (Report). New England Public Policy Center. Retrieved December 6, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "State House of North Dakota". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved October 25, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "State Senate of North Dakota". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved October 25, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links