Dakota Energy Cooperative’s annual meeting and board election drew a record crowd last Tuesday. Unfortunately for the board members, that record crowd booted the three incumbents up for reëlection and replaced them with Darrell Raschke of Huron, Nick Nemec of Holabird, and Tom Baruth of Alpena.
The challengers each won more than 60% of votes cast:
Final voting totals:
789 votes cast
485 votes for Darrell Raschke (61.5%)
304 votes for Dave Gross (38.5%)
790 votes cast
551 votes for Tommy Baruth (69.7%)
239 votes for Jeffrey Madison (30.3%)
785 votes cast
515 votes for Nick Nemec (65.6%)
270 votes for David Allen (34.3%) [staff, “Raschke, Nemec, Baruth Elected to Dakota Energy Board,” Huron Plainsman, 2022.06.15]
Raschke, Baruth, and Nemec ran for the board on the platform of dropping Dakota Energy’s appeal of a lawsuit it has been waging to break its contract with Madison-based East River Electric and get in bed with Guzman Energy of Colorado. U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Piersol dismissed that lawsuit in April, saying Dakota Energy signed a contract to buy power from East River through 2075.
But contract-schmontract—Dakota Energy board member Todd Bushong of Tulare said before the election that East River is just a bunch of conniving Biden Democrats:
East River’s [Chris] Studer, a Joe Biden guy, recruited three Democrats to eventually take operative control of our cooperative. These three Democrats have been operatives for the Democratic party their whole lives, using all the old tricks of the Democratic party. The first thing Tommy Baruth did was send a mailer encouraging members to stuff the ballot box by telling those with more than one meter to put the meters in different names. A move right out of the Democratic play book. Google and search Facebook for the Democrat members running for the board (Baruth, Nemec and Raschke) and decide for yourself if you want these Biden Democrats running our local cooperative. North Dakota’s Basin Electric has encouraged out-of-state interests to give money to the Democrat’s campaigns. Don’t let out of state and liberal money steal the election of our locally owned cooperative. These three Joe Biden Democrats do not want energy independence for your country, and certainly do not want energy independence for our local cooperative. Vote for Dave Gross, David Allen, and Jeff Madison on June 14 for energy independence [Todd Bushong, letter to the editor, Huron Plainsman, 2022.06.10].
Dakota Energy board president Chase Binger published in the coöp’s June newsletter two November 23, 2020, emails from East River PR man Chris Studer from November 2020 in which East River offers to provide legal advice and advertising to help Dakota Energy members see the error of their litigious, contract-breaking board’s ways. Dakota Energy members also received some nasty anonymous postcards pushing Bushong’s wild Bidenification of this local election:
“Somebody’s covering something up,” Raschke said. “There’s a rat in the woodpile someplace. It doesn’t make sense.”
His suspicions are due, in part, to the smear campaign which was launched to discredit him and the other challengers. One of Raschke’s friends reported hearing a rumor that he had served time in prison.
A postcard was mailed to Dakota Energy members. On one side, the heads of the challengers were affixed to puppets with the caption: East River’s pulling the strings. On the other was a picture of President Joe Biden laughing with the caption: East River recruited liberals to control your cooperative.
None of the men were approached by East River. Each chose to run out of a personal conviction that a change is needed [Mary Gales Askren, “Dakota Energy Members Reject Direction Board Has Taken,” Madison Daily Leader, 2022.06.20].
Dakota Energy serves mainly Beadle, Hand, and Hyde counties. In 2020, those counties voted for Trump 68%, 78%, and 79%. Bushong’s attempt to divert dissatisfaction with board members to Biden appears to have gotten no traction.
Raschke, Baruth, and Nemec plan to move for withdrawal of the court appeal in the East River lawsuit and another lawsuit against Baruth, Nemec, and other cooperative members who circulated a petition against the East River lawsuit. Baruth, Nemec, and Raschke join a nine-member board, so their motions cannot win without the backing of at least a couple other board members. They’d like to think that current board members could be persuaded that the lawsuits are wasting money and driving up rates. But if they can’t win agreement, the new boar dmembers say they can win another election:
“This appeal is just costing a bunch of money,” [Baruth] said.
He’s heard that East River and Basin Electric have paid around $2.5 million in legal fees. “Dakota Energy has to have at least that much. Think how much our electric bills will go up.”
Nemec, a rancher from Holabird, agrees that both lawsuits need to be dropped. Like Baruth, he hopes some of the current board members will vote with the newly elected members.
“If they don’t, there’s another election next year and we can do it again next year,” he said, referring to this year’s landslide victories. “We feel we have the backing of the members” [Gales Askren, 2022.06.14].
Let’s hope Nemec, Baruth, and Raschke can get Dakota Energy to live up to its name and be more cooperative with its members.