On Friday, March 16, at the North Dakota Democratic-NPL State Convention, State Senate Minority Leader Ryan Taylor accepted his party's nomination as candidate for Governor of North Dakota. He was nominated by former First Lady Grace Link and seconded by his colleague in the State Senate, Mac Schneider.
His acceptance speech and the press that followed are provided below.
"Welcome to the Future"
"Thank you Grace, thank you Mac. With a second from my assistant senate leader, a new generation of Democratic NPL leaders, and, with a nomination from a member of our greatest generation, a nomination that humbles me and warms my heart because it comes from a former first lady with the wisdom, insight and love for North Dakota that Grace Link has with those two generations urging me forward, how can I say anything but "Mr. Chairman, I accept this party's nomination to be the next governor of North Dakota!"
Like the song we walked up to says, "Welcome to the Future." The video asks children across America what they want to be when they grow up. If you'd have asked me that when I was a kid, I'd have looked you in the eye and said, "I want to be a cowboy," and I wanted to be a cowboy and wear a hat because Dad was a cowboy and Dad wore a hat, and I wanted to be just like Dad. Well, I did grow up to be a cowboy and a rancher and to be quite a bit like Dad, but the most important job I have is to be a dad myself, and a husband, so let me introduce the most important people in my life. My wife, Nikki, a woman whose heart and soul is as beautiful as she is, a woman who's been my partner since I proposed to her on my first election day of Nov. 5, 2002, in the little white steepled Keene First Lutheran church, and we were married in that same church on July 5, 2003. I won her vote, and together we've been blessed biennially with these three little angels, sometimes rascals--seven-year-old Marshall who we all call Bud after his grandpa Bud; five-year-old Olav who we all call Ole named after a great grandfather; and our three-year-old sweet little Sylvia, named after her great grandmother Sylvia.
Today, this husband, father, rancher, writer, senator stands before you to say this race for governor isn't about me, it's about you, it's about them (our children), it's about North Dakota, and it's about the state we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren. It's not about this cowboy before you, and it's not about the hat (or your blue hats), it's about a new beginning and our chance, at this special time, to elect a people's governor for North Dakota!
The "people's governor" isn't just some pairing of words, it is a testament to who I am and how I intend to lead. To be a governor who comes from the grass roots, who saddles his own horse and pitches his own hay, who stands with people across the state from all walks of life, all ages, gender, color or economic status. A people's governor who will work to protect our special quality of life and who has the courage to stand up and speak out for real North Dakota people. Real people. You see, where I come from, corporations aren't people - people are people!
Now, a person doesn't just wake up one day and decide to be governor, unless of course you're the lieutenant and your governor heads to DC to be a senator, and then you do wake up to be the next in a long line of statewide officials who got their job by inheritance or appointment. Political pundits ask me why North Dakota should "fire' the current governor, but I have to remind them that you can't really fire him because he's yet to be hired for the job he now holds by inheritance.
But this fall, we do get to hire our governor, the old fashioned way, by having real people cast real ballots, and choosing between two, or more, candidates who are all on the ballot for governor for the very first time. For 20 years, we have seen state government fashion a "small, ruling class' of closely connected and extremely wealthy individuals. Money and influence flows in, all our hard earned tax money and favorable policy flows out to a few friends of that ruling class, and rank and file North Dakotans are told to never mind what they're doing, just keep moving, nothing to see here. We are told that our current financial and economic windfall is the "North Dakota way," that we owe it all to, quote, "Eleven years of very hard work," but I would say it's owed more to hundreds of millions of years of intense pressure on ancient organic matter 10,000 feet below the surface. Slightly more than 11 years of political credit-taking.
So as we ask the people of North Dakota to hire a governor, what will we talk about in the interview? We will rightly talk about our quality of life across all of our state. We will ask if we are trading away those very traits that make this state special, a place where we want to make our life and raise our families. We will talk about ideas to put the cost of college back in reach for the hard working families of North Dakota, by creating a Lasting Harvest scholarship similar to the Hathaway Scholarship in Wyoming when they invested revenues from their oil and gas exploration. We can do that here. We ought not have the largest state budget surplus in the country while asking the majority of our students to take on increasing levels of student loan debt. We can use this special moment in time wisely by investing in our next generation.
We can help working families and businesses in the state by fostering opportunities for day care where parents can feel secure in knowing that their children are safe and well cared for while they are contributing to the needs of our workforce. What good is this wealth if we are the only state not putting state dollars towards HeadStart for needy children; if we do less than most every state in the country to help our kids get health insurance; or if we stay at the bottom with Alabama in providing prenatal care for mothers who can't afford private health insurance on their income. How we care for our children, how we support our families who only want their children to have the same opportunities they had and a chance at a better life; how we show respect in our policies for our seniors, our greatest generation, that says a lot about us.
Our communities deserve the peace of mind of knowing that the approaching of spring does not mean the encroaching of flood waters, and that means we make the investments and explore ways for the state to provide permanent flood protection, to innovate and support basin wide retention, and not always wait solely for federal appropriations. Our residents can't fill sandbags year after year, we can't have another 19 years of Devils Lake flooding, we can't bear to see the devastation of another Mouse River or Missouri River or any other river's flood on our citizens. And when disaster has struck, our state must do all that we can to aid in the rebuilding and recovery. We cannot horde money in Bismarck and then expect more from DC when our people are hurting. The governor must be a flood victim's best advocate, even if it means challenging the legislature's majority leadership to do what we know is right.
Obviously, we will talk about oil, and not just about how great everything is and how those in charge seem to have created it. We will talk about the impact of the development on our communities, we will give credit to the companies who've "cracked the code' to get it, but we will also demand responsibility and stewardship, and we will call on the state to shoulder its responsibility to the people of western North Dakota. People who want and deserve to feel safe in their communities, who want roads that aren't crumbling, schools that aren't pushed far beyond their capacity, who need emergency responders and fire fighters and policemen who aren't stretched to the point of burn out. Certainly, oil provides much to the economy. Yes, we'll get every drop of oil in due time that the market demands, but nothing comes for free, and we cannot break the spirit of our fellow North Dakotans in an unbridled quest for fast fortune.
We will ask for some balance of this "one time harvest' and we will enlist all voices in this debate--not just the voices of those who profit greatly, and, then, in turn, contribute to campaigns. I recently read a Bloomberg Business Week article about our 36th richest American, Continental Oil's Harold Hamm, who just so happens to be a leading contributor to the governor's campaign. He wrote out a $20,000 campaign contribution to him, but don't worry, he's worth $11 billion at last count. I appreciate hard work and risk taking and entrepreneurship. That's all good and fine, but it was the title of the article that rubbed me wrong, it said, "The man who bought North Dakota." Well, as governor, I will have the courage to stand up and say, you know what, "North Dakota is not for sale!" We will not sell out our quality of life for campaign contributions. We will not sell out for million dollar positions on boards of directors. We will not fall for the old "lower our oil taxes or we're going to pack up and leave" line.
I will not trade away all that makes this place special because I grew up knowing that there is more to life than money, and that position and power doesn't make you any more important in this world than those without position or power or money. With me as governor, North Dakota will not be for sale because I am not for sale and I am beholden to no person or no network of country club cronies. I learned on our homestead ranch that there are things in life we do not trade for any price. When my grandmother and great grandmother lost their husbands tragically and found themselves widowed and raising three little children on the unforgiving prairie in the 1920's they didn't sell the ranch. They persevered and they kept the ranch, our family heritage, because it was worth more than money.
Will we trade away our quality of life simply to step to the podium and say "our GDP is growing and so everything is great"? I will refer back to the words of Robert Kennedy who said correctly that GDP "measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile. It tells us everything about America except why we are proud to be Americans." We will not trade our safety, our landscape, our agricultural heritage, our hunting and fishing - those things that make life worthwhile - for unbridled growth. Why would we? To produce more and more oil to be sold at greater and greater discounts because we are not yet built to transport, or better yet refine it for ourselves? No, we can take advantage of our natural resources and not be taken advantage of. It will take leadership. It will take someone who assigns a value to our quality of life and not just the quantity of cash we can rake in.
Now declaring that our quality of life is not for sale and having the courage to speak out will bear a cost. A couple years ago you might have heard a radio ad that accused me of being "against the Bakken". As one of my Republican ranching friends from McKenzie County who heard the ad said with a chuckle, "Ryan, I didn't even know anyone could be against a geologic formation!" No, I'm all for the Bakken and the Three Forks and the Tyler, heck I'm for the Nesson Anticline, I'm for all the subterranean geology of North Dakota.
But you know what else I'm for? I'm for the water and the soil on the surface that has sustained North Dakota's god-given agricultural bounties for generations before and after statehood. And I'm for the people that live and make their living on that land. I say this as a guy whose friends and neighbors have had good jobs on the rigs, whose brother-in-law drives truck for the industry, whose wife comes from oil country with nearly everyone in the neighborhood of that church where we got married connected to it in one way or another. This isn't about the false notion that oil extraction is either all on or all off. It's about understanding the cost and being the one brave enough to stand up on the Industrial Commission and ask the hard questions about ensuring our future quality of life in North Dakota. The Industrial Commission is the elected oversight for our oil and gas industry. One member is up for election this year, and that's the governor. This is our time to demand courage on that commission.
So why does that matter to anyone east of Highway 83? First, it matters because we are all North Dakotans and we're all in this together. And every person in this state realizes the importance of sustainable oil revenues and a strong energy economy in the state, because even the road repairs of central and eastern North Dakota have a link to the oil being hauled on those roads in western North Dakota. In order to do what's right for rest, we have to get it right in the west.
Putting a people's governor back in the office honorably held by Bill Guy and Art Link and George Sinner would mean letting our state's people back in the office. Here's the difference: At an oil conference in Denver, our Governor told the executives there "I guarantee you'll always have direct access to the highest levels of state government in North Dakota." - which is fine, but isn't that the same access everyone should have?
Shortly after that Denver meeting, back in North Dakota, when locked out workers seeking only unemployment insurance benefits were at the capitol and asked to see our Governor, they were told that he didn't have time to meet with them. I can tell you this, as the people's governor, you know who would get direct access and time? Those locked out workers would!
It seems everyday there is an issue or an agency--Workers Comp, Board of Higher Ed, Industrial Commission, Land Board--demanding someone with courage to speak out for the people of North Dakota. It's as if they retired the bully pulpit from the governor's office and put it in storage, and inside that bully pulpit must have been the veto pen. At this moment of time in North Dakota, we must hear the voice of a leader who speaks with conviction. We must hear the governor, but mostly we have gotten .crickets. Silence. In that void of leadership, our public discourse seems to come from a house majority leader who even the Fargo Forum says has displayed antics that should disqualify him from leadership. But if the governor was truly leading and using the bully pulpit, we would not be dealing with the bullying tactics of Al Carlson.
The importance of this election was first explained to me 30 years ago by my father on a hay meadow in Smokey Lake Township. I was running the bullrake, the hay bucker, some of you know what that is. Our hay bucker was on an A John Deere, and as I was bullraking I remember reaching down below the throttle and finding a spring, and when I pulled that spring back, Vrrrrrroooooooommmm!, the tractor would take off lickety split. I asked Dad what I had done when I pulled that back, and he told me, "you just bypassed the governor." . Then I asked him what would happen if I kept doing that, if we kept bypassing the governor. He said, "you'd blow the tractor up." I remember the lesson well. And I think about the times when North Dakota most needed a governor with strength and courage - at times of unprecedented natural resource development - and we know that nobody bypassed Art Link when he was governor. And North Dakota came through that era with its values intact because a rancher, a legislator, from McKenzie County had the courage to stand up and speak out for the greater good of this state. Now a rancher, a legislator, from McHenry County is stepping forward for the same task.
We know this will not be an easy race, but nothing worth doing has ever been easy. Some will say a Democrat can't win in North Dakota. We know better. We know the future here goes far beyond political labels. It's about ideas and character and having the right person at the right time. And if that person does what's right, people will surprise you with their reaction. Independents, and some Republicans will vote for the person, rather than the party, when they see the sincerity of a just cause.
I remember bringing my mother home from the hospital in Rochester, Minn., on New Year's Day, 2009. She'd spent 60 days at Mayo fighting for her life against late stage ovarian cancer. She was not well, but she wanted to get back to North Dakota, she wanted to get back to her husband. She was in a wheel chair, and she had to have oxygen, and she had tubes and pouches and pain. But I promised to get her home. We got through security and got to the gate at the airport, and, of course let everybody else board first. Then we transferred her to one of those narrow wheel chairs that would fit down the center aisle of the plane and down the ramp into the plane. The flight attendant backed it up a few rows to her seat. This all took time and I'm sure the passengers were wondering what the holdup was, why the plane wasn't taking off on time.
We got to the seat and I was in front of Mom and I told her, "give me a hug Mom and I'll lift you up and get you in your seat." And she put her arms around me, and I lifted her up, she had lost so much weight in her illness it hardly felt like her, but when she was up I raised my eyes and looked down the length of the plane at passengers who were probably impatient and hurried and disgruntled I looked up and I can still see them like it was just yesterday there was nothing but kindness and support in every face as they watched me hug my mom to help get her home. I got Mom home, she got to see Dad and she passed away on North Dakota soil. I learned many lessons that day--but one that I think of now is that when you are doing what's right, people will surprise you with their reaction. Helping my mother get home was right, and air travelers who are usually not a sympathetic bunch surprised me with understanding and kindness. Standing up and speaking out for our future quality of life in North Dakota is the right thing to do, and people will surprise us with how they vote.
So this is where it all starts, today, together, we set out to make North Dakota history. This is not so improbable. We can do this. I think often of the quote credited to an influential Republican power broker, when our North Dakota friend, then vice president Teddy Roosevelt, rose to power, and he said, "Look now, that damned cowboy is president of the United States!" How much fun would it be, come Nov. 7, to have that small club of political power brokers in this state wake up and say, "Look now, that damned cowboy is governor of North Dakota!" And like T.R., we could usher in an era that values people more than corporations, and calls for conservation in a time when conservatives are not.
Our success at this special moment in time depends on you. All of you who care so deeply about our future quality of life in this special place called North Dakota. So, together, let's spread the word, let's make the difference, let's win the race. Let's go do it."