ADVERTISEMENT

House leader Pollert retiring after 24 years in Legislature

January 10, 2022 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Republican Rep. Chet Pollert, who served as the House majority leader for two legislative sessions and in the Legislature for 24 years, announced Monday he is retiring from politics and will not run for re-election.

“It’s time,” Pollert told The Associated Press in an interview ahead of his announcement.

Pollert, 66, has represented a sprawling rural district in east-central North Dakota since 1998. The retired Carrington businessman was elected majority leader in 2018, replacing GOP Rep. Al Carlson, who lost re-election in his Fargo district.

Pollert called serving in leadership “the hardest job I’ve ever done.” His tenure overlapped a period of increasing rancor in the Legislature that at least two other members had cited in announcing their retirements in recent weeks.

Pollert co-sponsored a resolution, along with Democratic House Minority Leader Josh Boschee of Fargo, to expel a GOP legislator accused of threatening and sexually harassing women at the Capitol, the first time in state history a lawmaker has been expelled.

ADVERTISEMENT

House members voted 69-25 to expel Rep. Luke Simons, a Republican from Dickinson, for an alleged pattern of behavior they said stretched back to soon after he took office in 2017. The expulsion came with strong support from Simons’ own party.

Pollert, who considers himself just right of moderate, was criticized by the far-right faction of the party, but didn’t budge, saying Simons had been given “multiple chances to avoid being in this situation.”

Pollert sold his grain and fertilizer company last year, and his wife, Jo, is retiring soon from her job at a school in Carrington. The couple want to travel and spend more time with family, he said.

Gov. Doug Burgum hailed Pollert for “strong and steady leadership” and “a champion for farmers, ranchers and the business community,” among others.

His departure means Republicans will have new leadership teams in both the House and Senate in the next session, which begins next January. No one has yet announced plans to seek the posts. House and Senate Republicans aren’t expected to hold leadership elections until late this year.

Republican Sen. Rich Wardner, 79, of Dickinson, announced last month he would not seek re-election. The retired coach and educator was first elected to the House in 1990, and moved over to the Senate in 1998. He was elected majority leader in 2011.

The term of Democratic Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman, of New Rockford, ends this year and she also will not be back due to redistricting.

Thus far, two other senators won’t be back: Bismarck Democratic Sen. Erin Oban announced in November she won’t be seeking a third term, citing the divisive nature of current politics.

Her announcement came a week after Bismarck GOP Sen. Nicole Poolman said she won’t seek reelection. Poolman said she wants to spend more time with her family and students but also cited an eroding civility in politics.

Republicans control the House 80-14 and the Senate 40-7.