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Commentary: Cramer's admission is Hamm-handed

Mike McFeely, Oct. 17, 2015Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

You would hope a reluctant candidate for the U.S. Senate would be swayed to run for such an important office, first of all, by the unrelenting drive to serve citizens of his state.

Failing that, if the candidate was still undecided, perhaps the final factor in running for Senate would be to serve the citizens of the United States. Not as good as actually wanting to make the lives of people in your state better, but still acceptable because we're sort of all in this together.

Beyond that, there aren't many good reasons that would tilt the balance toward running. Ego, power or resume-building are not acceptable. A public servant should be swayed by public service and the desire, regardless of political affiliation or ideology, to do good things for constituents, no matter how a candidate might define "good things."

Doing it "for the party?" Wonky insiders might see that as important, but it shouldn't be the deciding factor.

How about "because the president put on the full-court press?" That's a nice way to stroke the candidate's ego—"Look how important the president thinks I am!"—but it shouldn't be the reason to pull the trigger on a Senate run.

But those are not the worst reasons. No, that distinction, the absolute most miserably insufficient reason to run, is to have an out-of-state industrialist with a direct interest in having you elected be the person who finally persuaded you.

North Dakota, meet Kevin Cramer. Oh, and Harold Hamm, who is important to this story, too.

They really don't need much introduction to North Dakotans, particularly Cramer. The small-government Republican's latest government job is U.S. Representative, although he's probably best known now as the opponent of Democratic U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp.

Hamm is the big shooter at Continental Resources, the Oklahoma oil company often credited with unlocking the Bakken Formation and its billions of dollars worth of crude in western North Dakota. Hamm is a major influencer of state energy policy.

According to Cramer, Hamm is the person who pushed him over the line to run for the Senate. He said so in an interview with WDAY-TV

"It took months to get him to run. He said 'no' to other Republicans. 'No' to the president. He didn't want to risk losing his seat in the House," WDAY's narrator said. "But it was a call from oil tycoon Harold Hamm, whose net worth is $18 billion, that finally tipped the scales."

The next shot was of Cramer saying: "When Harold talked to my wife, Kris, and he said, 'Kris, if Kevin does this, if you guys get into this, I will be his national finance chairman.' That was pretty compelling."

Not North Dakotans, not the country. A wealthy out-of-state oil man who promised to raise a lot of money. That's the who and why that tripped Cramer's trigger.

It's always telling to know what compels people to make major decisions. Harold Hamm compelled Kevin Cramer. What does that tell you?

Mike McFeely
Mike McFeely is a WDAY (970 AM) radio host and a columnist for The Forum. You can respond to Mike's columns by listening to AM-970 from 8:30-11 a.m. weekdays.
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