Political Pulse: Rise of the ROC


Bismarck, N.D.
November 10, 1942

Democrat John Moses has won a third term as governor. He was first elected in 1938 because the Republican party was splintered into three factions: Langer’s Nonpartisan Leaguers; old-time Leaguers like William Lemke and Gerald P. Nye who had come to intensely dislike Langer; conservative Republicans, referred to as Regular Republicans, who for a decade had been frustrated by their loss of power to Langer’s League. The anti-Langer Leaguers’ and Regular Republicans’ votes have gone in 1938, 1940, and now in 1942 to John Moses. He owes his three victories to Republican voters who have tired of Langer’s control of their party.

Moses had come to America in 1905, graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1914 and from the law school in 1915, and practiced law in Hazen. As governor he had earned the reputation as an honest, hard-working official who accomplished a record of fiscal responsibility and clean government.

When he opened the recent campaign he told the North Star Dakotan, “What taxpayers wanted was results, not headlines. What taxpayers wanted was economy, not reckless spending. What you taxpayers wanted was peace and harmony, not purges and rule by the National Guard.” The state’s people agreed.

John Moses, governor of North Dakota, is pictured on the right.

Devils Lake, N.D.
November 30, 1942

Regular Republican leader Clyde Duffy of Devils Lake exhibited his frustration with having to vote for a Democrat to express his opposition to Langer and his League when he told the North Star Dakotan, “Coalescing Democrats and Republicans is something like hanging a couple of Kilkenny cats over a clothesline with their tails tied together.” His dissatisfaction with the present political situation is increasingly typical of conservative Regular Republicans across the state.

Bismarck, N.D.
February 19, 1943

Milton R. Young, a farmer from Berlin and a state senator since 1933, has been busy behind the scenes organizing anti-Langer Republicans into a formal political unit that he hopes will be able to gain control of the Republican party. Young was familiar with the Independent Voters Association’s success in defeating Townley’s Nonpartisan League in 1922; he knew that it had failed as a political force because it lost its broad base. Young, a soft-spoken man with a speech impediment, holds that real farmers, together with main street business people, be the base of any effort to topple Langer’s political machine.

John Davis, a leader in the Republican Organizing Committee, watches Monty Montana performing in the state capitol. Courtesy of State Historical Society of North Dakota (0080-box 2-file 14-03).

Bismarck, N.D.
February 23, 1943

Milton Young, together with Senators J. B. Bridston of Grand Forks and Rilie Morgan of Grafton, have successfully put together a formal political faction called the Republican Organizing Committee. Young takes on the responsibility of establishing and directing the county organization and the day-to-day running of the ROC. Bridston, insurance executive and owner of First Federal Savings and Loan of Grand Forks, is charged with raising money. Rilie Morgan, the publisher and editor of the Walsh County Record, holds the public relations job. He knows all of the state’s editors and is busy establishing an ROC monthly publication, the ROC Messenger.

Reflecting the objective of the ROC, Bridston has told The North Star Dakotan that he sees the ROC as “a spontaneous movement on the part of farmers, businessmen, and working men all over North Dakota against the evils of the Langer political machine.”

Political allies Fred Aandahl (left) and Milton R. Young (right) in 1945.

Bismarck, N.D.
March 23, 1944

The first ROC convention has concluded in a spirit of confidence and optimism as it looks forward to a June primary election battle with Langer’s Nonpartisan League. The ROC is organized throughout the state and has drawn together anti-Langer Leaguers, Regular Republicans, and even some Democrats. It has nominated a full slate of candidates which includes Fred G. Aandahl for governor, Gerald P. Nye for U.S. Senate, Young and Lemke for the House of Representatives.

Aandahl farms near Litchville and is a graduate of the University of North Dakota. He brought with him to the ROC experience as a North Dakota state senator, a public school administrator, an active participant in the administration of New Deal farm programs, and the radio voice that explained those farm programs to North Dakotans. As the keynote speaker he told the assembly, “We are united now because during the past twelve years of political turmoil in North Dakota we have constantly found ourselves working together for good government and in that work have established confidence in each other’s purpose.”

Aandahl made clear to the convention and the people of North Dakota that the ROC stood for the reduction or elimination of inefficient bureaucracy, good and honest government, support for the state-owned businesses, an obligation to assist the needy but not to encourage dependency on government help, a pledge for the rehabilitation of returning veterans, and the development of the state’s agricultural and mineral resources. ROCers left the convention hall charged with the energy to bring an end to Langer’s control of the Republican party The nomination of Nye was not enthusiastic but his name on the ticket was important. He will receive stiff opposition from Leaguer Usher Burdick, a known vote-getter, and Independent Republican Lynn V. Stambaugh, an internationalist and former national commander of the American Legion.

Fred Aandahl is pictured on his tractor. Courtesy of Aandahl family.

Jamestown, N.D.
April 13, 1944

In early March Governor Moses told the North Star Dakotan, “As you know I have no personal desire to go to Washington.” In early April he seemed to give in a little: “I have never run away from a fight yet, and if the Convention insists on me being a candidate, I shall probably have to accept it.” The Democratic state convention has unanimously nominated the popular governor. Whom he will face in November’s general election will be determined in the June Republican election.
June 28, 1944
Yesterday’s primary election bodes well for the future of the ROC. Only four Nonpartisan League candidates, all incumbents, won nomination. Aandahl, Nye, and Lemke won slim victories. Young lost to Leaguer Charles Robertson by only a few thousand votes. Political observers explain the victories of the ROC to wartime prosperity, the more conservative mood in the nation, and Aandahl’s effective use of radio during the campaign.

Fargo, N.D.
August 12, 1944

Lynn J. Stambaugh, Fargo attorney who lost in the Republican primary, has announced that he will run as an independent in the general election. What has been viewed as a Moses-Nye fight has now become a three-way race. Sources have informed The North Star Dakotan that Senator Langer induced Stambaugh to enter the race, hoping to defeat his political enemy Gerald P. Nye.

Rochester, M.N.
September 15, 1944

Three days ago Governor John Moses, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, underwent stomach surgery for what many believe to be cancer. He will remain at the Mayo Clinic for prolonged x-ray treatment. Sources tell The North Star Dakotan that Nye supporters have spread the word that Moses will not live to take his seat in Washington if he is elected.

Bismarck, N.D.
November 8, 1944

John Moses returned to North Dakota in time to campaign via radio. “My doctors tell me that I am completely cured,” he told his radio audiences. He urged voters to support Franklin Roosevelt and that he would work for an international organization for peace. His illness had no effect in the election results: Moses, 95,102 votes; Nye, 69,530; Stambaugh, 44,596. He becomes the first elected Democrat to the senate in the state’s history.

The ROC Republicans have swept to power. Those who were nominated in the spring have all been victorious. The conservative Republicans control the state. People are asking, Can the NPL survive without Langer in the state?

Rochester, M.N.
March 3, 1945

John Moses took his oath of office on January 3, 1945. Fifteen days later he entered the Mayo Clinic and was admitted to a local hospital. He died today. Newly elected Governor Fred G. Aandahl now has the opportunity to name Moses’ successor.

Milton R. Young, Otto Krueger, Clyde Duffy, and C. Norman Brunsdale discuss ROC plans. Courtesy of State Historical Society of North Dakota (C1673).

Bismarck, N.D.
March 12, 1945

Governor Fred Aandahl announced today the appointment of Milton R. Young to the senate seat vacated by the death of John Moses. Young is considered to be the primary organizer of the ROC. When asked by The North Star Dakotan why the governor selected Young, he responded, “I recognized Milt Young’s outstanding legislative ability and thought it desirable to send a man with a farm background to the United States Senate.”

Young, however, will have to stand for election next year. Being an incumbent should give him the advantage. For now, the ROC has unexpectedly elevated one of its own to sit with Langer in Washington.

By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton


Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.

Grade Level

3-4, 7-12

Subject Matter

Social Studies

North Star Dakotan:

Journals and Art Work: The Indian People, The Trade, and The Land

The Indian People

The Purchase and Exploration of Louisiana

The Fur Trade

Dakota Territory

The Military Frontier

The Reservation System

George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn

The Great Dakota Boom, 1878-1890

Reservation Troubles, 1886-1890

The Making of a State and a Constitution

The North Dakota Economy, 1890-1915

Life on the Indian Reservations

The North Dakota National Guard and the Philippines

North Dakota, The Great War and After

The Nonpartisan League's Rise to Power

The Nonpartisan League in Power

The Nonpartisan League's Decline

The 1920s

1930s: North Dakota's Economic and Political Climate

The New Deal in North Dakota

The Road to World War II

North Dakota and American Society

North Dakota Optimism and Economic Developments

North Dakota and Political Change

Related Links

”‘It Was Easy to Get Involved’: An Interview with Governor John E. Davis”

Edited by Gerald G. Newborg, North Dakota History, volume 70, no. 1, 2003, pp. 2-25.

Quentin Burdick: The Gentle Warrior

Dan Rylance (North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 2007)