"Well first of all, the governor always felt called to public service, felt that that was important," said Don Larson, campaign manager for Hoeven's Senate run, in an interview with TPMDC. "So when it came time that he was considering running, he did write that letter at that time. Shortly after that, he realized his views were more in line with the Republicans than the Democrats. So he got involved with the Republican Party, became a Republican district chairman, helped Republican candidates around North Dakota, and then ran for and won the governorship. Before that, he had not been involved in politics at all, either as a Republican or a Democrat."
Was there a specific event or issue that made him become a Republican, I asked? "No," Larson responded. "It was a realization that his views, his efforts towards job creation, towards building a better business climate in our state, those are more in line with what the Republican philosophy is."
Given Hoeven's statements that one should join a political party and stick to it -- and that he initially chose the Democrats -- what would his response be to people who might question his bonafides as a conservative Republican? "Well what I'd say is look at his time as governor of North Dakota," Larson replied. "We've gone from zero reserves to over $700 million in reserve. We have zero general fund obligations, zero general fund debt, we've lowered taxes, and those are all in line with his view on how government should be run. You should take in more than you spend, you should build your base, build your economy to fund the programs that are important, and then you should give the money back to the people through tax cuts."
(Fun fact: The full, non-abbreviated name of North Dakota's state Democratic Party is the "North Dakota Democratic Non-Partisan League Party." Just think about that. It dates back to a merger between the Democrats and the left-wing populist Non-Partisan League, which was a major political force in the state during the first half of the 20th century. But just think about that name.)