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Recall effort for GOP lawmaker halted due to redistricting

November 18, 2021 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — An effort to recall a state Republican legislator can’t occur now that a new redistricting map has been approved, North Dakota’s top election official announced Thursday.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger said he rescinded the petition to recall GOP Rep. Dwight Kiefert because an election will be held in his district in less than a year.

Kiefert, a farmer who has represented a district in southeastern North Dakota for the past decade, won reelection last year. But he must run again next year to keep his seat because the redrawn legislative map adds a third incumbent to the new district. The election would have Kiefert running against GOP Reps. Cole Christensen and Seabasitan Ertfelt.

Kiefert told The Associated Press on Thursday he will run for the seat. Ertfelt and Christensen said they were undecided.

The effort to recall Kiefert was largely over his vote to expel fellow GOP Rep. Luke Simons, who was accused of sexually harassing women at the state Capitol. The now-obsolete recall petition accused Kiefert of “failing to meet the standards of a Republican” representing the district.

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North Dakota Republicans wield supermajority control in the Legislature and hold every statewide office. The party, however, began splintering in the past decade with the emergence of the loosely organized Bastiat Caucus, fervent supporters of limited government and spending as well as backers of privacy and gun rights. Simons, who was expelled by the House in March, was one of them.

The recall had been viewed as a litmus test for party loyalty, state GOP Chairman Perrie Schafer has said. The intraparty fight has the far-right faction increasingly seeking to control the party and replace Republicans they see as too moderate. Ertfelt and Christensen have ties to the far-right caucus.

Simons denied wrongdoing and complained that he wasn’t getting due process and was targeted for his political ideology.

Of 80 House Republicans, 55 voted to expel Simons. A few GOP lawmakers were formally condemned at the district level for backing the expulsion, but Kiefert was the only one to face recall. Kiefert said he voted to remove Simons because of his alleged inappropriate behavior toward women.