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N.D. Lieutenant Governor, Public Service Commissioner Duke it up

March 12, 1990

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) _ Donning boxing gloves and bemused expressions, North Dakota’s lieutenant governor and a state commissioner skewered Norwegians, neighboring Montana and each other in an after-dinner feast of verbal fisticuffs.

It was billed as a bout of political light-wits, and the audience of state officials was soon groaning. A judge couldn’t decide whose barbs were best, so he cracked a joke and disqualified himself.

They entered the mock ring in red boxing gloves. In early exchanges, Lt. Gov. Lloyd Omdahl scored with a shock one-liner - ″I’m a runner, I’m not a fighter″ - that had Public Service Commissioner Leo Reinbold reeling.

Omdahl pressed home his advantage, aiming for Reinbold’s midriff.

″He comes from Hebron, you know, a city where there’s no crime,″ he said. ″Not because the people are honest but there’s nothing to steal.

″He was raised on a farm. His folks had hoped for corn,″ said Omdahl, now on a roll.

Reinbold leapt back, conjuring up the childhood of a champion.

″Let’s fast-forward from there to March 24, 1933, western Morton County, where Leo M. Reinbold was born, in a small log cabin, on a hillside, with a picture of Abraham Lincoln on the wall ...,″ Reinbold said.

″I’ll never forget, I was about 10 years old, and I was looking around at my brothers and sisters, and they were short and I was tall. I had red hair and they had dark hair. I had freckles and they didn’t. I started wondering about myself.

″I went into the house, and I talked to my mother, and I said, ‘Mom, was I adopted?’ And she said, ’Well, yes, but they brought you back.‴

Reinbold’s chest swelled as the crowd roared. At a banquet on the eve of a biennial summit conference of state officials opening Monday at the University of North Dakota, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Secretary of State Jim Kusler, North Dakota’s boxing commissioner, had introduced the combatants in a ring complete with three hemp ropes, bright red cushions and a water bucket in each corner.

Montana inevitably came in for rough treatment.

″Do you know who discovered Montana? It was the Roto-Rooter man working out of Williston,″ Reinbold said, scoring heavily.

″Only 10 percent of Montana is habitable,″ came back Omdahl. ″The people live in the rest.″

Norwegians, a common immigrant group in North Dakota, weren’t spared. ″Do you know what 1066, 1776 and 1918 have in common? They were adjoining rooms at the Oslo Hilton,″ Reinbold said.

Omdahl, who is chairman of a specially appointed commission looking into ways to cut costs in state government, ridiculed his own work by offering some ″suggestions″ to shave expenses.

″The secretary of state has extra 1947 code books. Please use these before new ones will be printed. I want that one for the judges. I think they’re using them anyway.″ he said.

The state Supreme Court justices were split. Herbert Meschke, a former Democratic senator, voted for Reinbold, a Republican. H.F. ″Sparky″ Gierke, a former vice chairman of the state GOP, thought Omdahl, a Democrat, had edged it.

Gerald VandeWalle had the final word.

″Lloyd, you said something about the judges still using 1947 law books,″ the justice said. ″That’s because it’s our considered opinion there hasn’t been anything intelligent passed since then.

″I have to disqualify myself,″ VandeWalle concluded. ″They’re both impossible.″

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