Luke Simons has refused to resign. As the Legislature reconvenes today, the question is whether or not they have the votes for censure and potential expulsion. Listening to House Majority Leader Chet Pollert on KFGO radio, you wouldn’t get the sense of confidence he has the votes. If not, that is a shame.

If you’ve followed NoDak politics, you’ve probably heard people refer to the “Bastiat caucus.” It is a group of far-right lawmakers within the Republican Party. Over the last few elections, the legislature has pushed further right. Simons has now become the face of that caucus. Those bastiats will need to ask themselves whether or not they’re comfortable with that reality. If they’re not, they’ve been presented with a chance to clean their hands of the situation and vote for the expulsion of Simons.

Outside the Legislature, active NDGOP members have created a “legal defense fund” for Simons. The Forum News Service’s Jeremy Turley described the fund and how it was established. In his article, Turley confirmed a former “campaign manager” for Kevin Cramer and current NDGOP Chairman for District 38 Jared Hendrix created the fund for Simons.

As of this writing, the fund has raised $3,750 from 34 supporters. Their goal is to reach $15,000 for Simons to defend himself from the multiple allegations spanning multiple years. Some of the allegations have been corroborated by his Republican colleagues in the ND House. Word around political circles is that the public can expect more allegations of inappropriate behavior from Simons to be revealed.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a former campaign manager of Kevin Cramer has confirmed he is behind the fund to defend Simons. There are a few reasons. We can look back to the situation around the NDGOP endorsed candidate for Secretary of State, Will Gardner.

A quick refresher, in a 2006 incident Gardner was cited for disorderly conduct because he was caught peeping into multiple windows of a female dorm at NDSU. In 2018, the NDGOP endorsed him to be their Secretary of State candidate. Once the citation was revealed, few people came to Gardner’s defense. Gardner eventually dropped out of the race.

A conservative radio host and Kevin Cramer were two of Gardner’s defenders following his exit from the race. Cramer defended Gardner saying his history wouldn’t “have been a compelling case” to not vote for Gardner had he stayed in the race. The former campaign manager for Cramer – who confirmed to the Forum he began the defense fund for Simons – also had a history of working with Garnder’s campaign. At the time in 2018, many in the NDGOP wondered if Hendrix knew of Gardner’s charges before working to get the party’s endorsement.

Why bring this past up? Because a case can be made there is a fraction within the NDGOP that will defend or allow the type of behavior Simons has been accused of multiple times. The question this week is how big of an influence that group has within the Legislature. Will they stand with Simons or will they stand for decency and a safe workplace environment?

Tyler Axness
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