'One vote at a time'
R. Travis Brazelton has a message for District 37:
"We all love Senator Wardner, but it's time for change."
Brazelton, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, believes the general election will be a tightly contested battle that will "open some eyes." He believes that the people are ready for a change after 28 years, and that he has a real shot at unseating Wardner on Nov. 6.
Brazelton said he believes Wardner and the Republican Party have maintained a status-quo for too long with broken promises; promises he says he'll keep if elected.
"The Republicans use the traditional platform bullet points to get elected, then as soon as they're elected, they ignore it. They claim to want term limits, but he's been in office for 28 years. They claim to want to lower taxes, but we haven't seen it. They claim to want smaller government, but they've had the super majority for two decades and it hasn't got any smaller. They claim to be about less regulation, but all they've done is change the word regulation to oversight," Brazelton said. "It's the same thing every time and people are catching on. I'm going to actively push for term limits, lower taxes, smaller government and less regulation."
When explaining why he's running as a Democrat, despite his seemingly conservative platform, he said that he's actually a member of the Nonpartisan League of the Democratic Party.
"I was a longtime Republican that got tired of getting lied to," Brazelton said. "(The Republicans) decided that they weren't going to have a caucus last election for president and I got irritated and went to the Democratic caucus. I found that I liked them better."
Brazelton is a busy man, working three jobs in the oilfield industry — a fact he said could be a factor in the election as his campaign has focused heavily on the oilfield's historically Republican voter base.
"More seasoned voters have always voted for (Wardner) because they don't know anyone else," Brazelton said. "Visiting with them and convincing them, especially if they've voted for him every election, is a difficult challenge — but that's what I intend to do, one vote at a time."
Unconcerned with "the rhetoric" that says Democrats want to "kill" oil, Brazelton says he's a safe bet against any of those concerns.
"I work in the oilfield," he said. "Win or lose, I have to go back to work."
Addressing his opponent's campaign advertisements on lowered taxes, Brazelton believes the Republican property tax cut claims are inaccurate.
"The Republicans have had the super majority for two decades and have promised to lower taxes. They claim that everyone's property taxes have gone down, but that's only because the value assessments are depressed," he said. "They actually raised the percentage on houses. So, while some people are going to see lower taxes during the short term under the current housing market depression, once the value goes back up, they are going to realize that they have been hit with a 0.2 percent increase."
Brazelton said he believes the responsibility of a representative is to represent his electorate, regardless of personal conviction on a subject.
"They voted for you and you have to represent them," he said. "That's what we're supposed to do. I don't represent Democrats or Republicans or Independents. I represent the people of District 37. All I have to do is vote what the people as a whole want, regardless of what my conscious is telling me."
District 37 faces some challenges moving forward — Brazelton said he's fortunate to have an opportunity to "represent the voice of the people" on issues they care about.
"Wardner's failures with the Theodore Roosevelt Library were big. It was a done deal, it was going to be built in Dickinson. Then the governor swoops in and says it's going to Medora or Fargo," Brazelton said. "It's just mind-boggling that this happened as he sat there quietly. We lost out on hundreds of thousands of dollars that were coming to District 37. That's what people care about."
Brazelton emphasized the lack of money being returned to the district as one of the key areas he seeks to address if elected.
"We don't get any income tax back from the state. It all goes to Fargo and it's been that way since the first oil boom," Brazelton said. "The oil severance tax is split and under Wardner's plan, we could possibly get up to 38 percent if everything goes perfectly, but I did some math yesterday and with income tax alone — Dickinson, Stark County and District 37 are losing out on $10 million dollars comparative to other counties."
Sentiments on the eastern part of the state have historically overlooked what is best for the western part, according to Brazelton.
"I hear Republicans and Democrats on the eastern part of the state saying that we have too much money. We don't have too much money!" he said. "There's always projects and construction, highway and roadway repair and we're all playing hopscotch to get home. Ten million dollars isn't a whole lot when that roundabout is going to cost $12 million alone."
Brazelton's second area of primary focus would be to draft and pass a term-limit bill in the state.
"One of the newest slogans is that North Dakotans are citizen legislators," he said. "Lifetime politicians aren't citizen legislators. Term limits will get people that want to go into office a chance to get into office, instead of our habit of electing one person and leaving them in there while the other side doesn't send any opposition."
Come Nov. 6, Brazelton said he hopes that the voice of the people will be heard for the first time in nearly two decades.
"I've got nothing against Wardner, but people are tired of being lied to," he said. "On election night, the people of District 37 can send a message to Bismarck that here in western North Dakota, we're ready for a change."