North Dakota State Senator Says 'Rhetoric' After Capitol Riot Part of Resignation Decision

North Dakota state Sen. Erin Oban said that the "rhetoric" after the Capitol riot is part of the reason she's decided to not run for reelection next year.

"It wasn't the insurrectionists storming the U.S. Capitol — it's watching so many elected officials downplay and downright lie about what happened. I'm so disgusted by the rhetoric," Oban said.

She is one of only seven Senate Democrats in the North Dakota Legislature, which is the smallest minority the chamber has seen in 50 years.

Oban is a former junior high math teacher. She was elected to represent a Bismarck district first in 2014.

Last week, Bismarck GOP Sen. Nicole Poolman also said she wouldn't run again. While Poolman, also an educator, said she wishes to spend more time with her family and students. She also mentioned deteriorating civility in politics.

GOP U.S. Rep Kelly Armstrong said both Oban and Poolman are well-respected lawmakers in the North Dakota Legislature and their resignation is a big loss.

He said they are "as politically engaged as any two people in North Dakota."

Many of Oban's Republican colleagues at the national and state level are still supporting the unfounded allegations that the election was stolen, Oban said.

"I can't watch smart people cave and cower to people who they know are wrong," Oban said. "They're cowards."

North Dakota Legislature, Erin Oban, Nicole Poolman
Bismarck GOP Sen. Nicole Poolman and Sen. Erin Oban have decided not to run again. This photo taken Aug. 18, 2013, shows the state Capitol building of North Dakota at Bismarck. Karen Bleier/AFP via Getty Images

"That's unfair and an oversimplification by my friend telling us how to act as Republicans," said Armstrong, who served with Oban in the Legislature before being elected to Congress, about Oban's comment.

Armstrong said it's still widely believed in North Dakota, where Trump received more than 65 percent of the popular vote in the last general election, that the election was rigged.

Armstrong said he voted to certify the election and said he tells his constituents consistently that they are wrong to believe Trump was ripped off in the election.

"People who perpetuate that are silly," said Armstrong, an ardent Trump supporter. "President Joe Biden was the one elected."

"I wish Donald Trump would have won, but he didn't," Armstrong said.

The first-term and lone North Dakota congressman said he doesn't spend time trying to convince his GOP colleagues who support the alleged rigged election theory to change their minds.

"We spend more time talking about policies and how we will win elections than that," he said.

Armstrong was at the U.S. Capitol during the violent breach. He voted against creation of the panel to investigate the insurrection, but later was one of the handful of Republicans who were chosen to serve on it. He and others were pulled back by the Republicans' House leader, Kevin McCarthy, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two others McCarthy had attempted to appoint.

Armstrong said Democrats "inappropriately" are trying to paint the Capitol breach "as another Pearl Harbor or 9-11."

"It wasn't," he said.

"But it's also inappropriate for anybody to downplay the violence that occurred at the Capitol," Armstrong said.

Armstrong said he also believes there has been an erosion of civility in politics ongoing for a long time that parallels the advent of social media.

"Decorum is getting worse, but are all these county commission and school board fights because of Jan. 6? No," Armstrong said. "I believe it's the escalation of social media."

It's too easy to resort to extreme rhetoric and divisiveness now with social media, he said.

"If you won't say it to someone's face then don't say it with your thumbs," Armstrong said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.