Candidate visits with students

North Dakota Governor hopeful Dr. Rick Becker visited UND last week to discuss his run with students at UND’s Wilkerson Commons.

Becker, who is the only formally declared gubernatorial candidate, represents District 7 in the North Dakota legislature and is a plastic surgeon in Bismarck.

“I began to have an interest in politics, economics, political philosophy and history, when I came back to Bismarck, because I was finally done with training, I said some time for personal growth,” Becker said. “I started paying attention more to politics and government and realized how I was being affected by politics and government.”

In addition to his practice as a plastic surgeon, he owns several businesses in Bismarck.

“These things started coming together, and I was realizing what was happening in the state and was thinking ‘we should be really doing this or we should be doing that,’” Becker said, reflecting on his decision to get involved in state politics.

Becker is a native of Mandan and was first elected to the North Dakota Legislature in 2012. He was re-elected to a four-year term in 2014 and has served on the Transportation and Industry, Business and Labor committees during legislative sessions, as well at the Interim committees on Government Finance and Health Care Reform.

Becker gave several reasons that prompted his run for governor, including current Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s decision not to run and the growing disconnect between state spending and tax revenue.

“For the first time in 16 years, we have an open seat for the governor,” Becker said. “At the same time, we’ve reached a critical point. The concerns I’ve had with state spending, which has been dramatically increasing, are now suddenly juxtaposed over the fact that we have dramatically lower revenue. We’re at a crossroads where something has to be done. We can’t put our heads in the sand and keep going the way we’ve been going.”

Becker, who attended UND as both an undergraduate and for medical school, highlighted some of the reforms he would like to see in the state’s higher education system.

“I think we have a lot of unnecessary spending and waste (in the higher education system). That translates into two things: higher tuition and more appropriations from the state, which means taxpayers’ money,” Becker said. “The students are paying more, the taxpayers are paying more, and I don’t think we are necessarily getting the bang for our buck.”

Becker also mentioned other reforms he would like to see in higher education, including increasing access to affordable online learning and reevaluating the current reciprocity arrangements that North Dakota universities have with out-of state students.

“I love it when out-of-state students come to our university system, but I want it to be because of the quality of our education, not because it is so cheap to come here because the North Dakota taxpayers are subsidizing it by way of state appropriations,” Becker said.

Becker also discussed some of the lessons he has learned so far during his time in the legislature.

“I realized what it takes to be able to work with lobbyists, people on the other side of the aisle and people on the other side of spectrum in your party to try to come together where you’re not compromising your values but you can still try to come up with a solution,” Becker said.

According to a study conducted by the Say Anything Blog, a blog with a focus on politics in North Dakota, Becker was rated as the most conservative/libertarian member of the North Dakota Legislature. This ranking was based on which bills each member sponsored, cosponsored and voted for.

One of Becker’s higher profile legislative achievements was his bill last legislative session that required a warrant for police use of drones for surveillance and banned lethal weapons from being used on drones. Becker said that he plans to expand this ban to include all drone-mounted weapons, whether they are lethal or nonlethal.

Sean Cleary is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]