Video: Doug Burgum Seems To Be Running For Governor Of Fargo


Last night NDGOP gubernatorial candidates Rick Becker and Doug Burgum were on Chris Berg’s Valley News Live program for what was described as a candidate forum. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, the third man in the race, didn’t participate and got ripped for it.

Stenehjem, along with the other two candidates, will be participating in the debate tomorrow night sponsored by the state party. I think he should have shown up for this one too.

Anyway, most interesting part of last night’s program was Burgum (no offense, Becker, but we’ve heard it before). What I took from it is that this guy, Burgum, doesn’t know how to clearly articulate what he would do as governor.

For instance, Burgum was highly critical of the handling of the state’s budget over the last couple of biennium cycles (criticism that isn’t necessarily off the mark). He was then asked what Burgum-backed budget cuts would look like.

His response? Basically, pick a number.

That answer reminded me of Donald Trump (and not just because Burgum had a kind of Trump-esque outfit on, what with the blue suit and red tie). It was political red meat for low information voters who aren’t interested in the subtleties of budgeting, but also vague enough that it doesn’t pin him down to an actual policy position.

That from a guy who claims he’s not a politician. In fact, I’d say that Trump and Burgum are probably motivated by some of the same things. The knock on both men is that they’re not really all that conservative, so they make up for it with heavy rhetoric that’s titillating for conservatives.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]In fact, I’d say that Trump and Burgum are probably motivated by some of the same things. The knock on both men is that they’re not really all that conservative, so the may up for it with rhetoric that’s titillating for conservatives.[/mks_pullquote]

Burgum’s posturing contrasted sharply with Becker who is every bit as critical of recent state spending but also has a firmer grasp on the issue. Which isn’t surprising given that Becker has spent the last four years as a state lawmaker actually involved in building budgets.

I’m told Burgum was at the state capitol not so long ago to get a schooling on budget matters from Office of Management and Budget Director Pam Sharp, but that sort of cramming just isn’t going to replace the sort of time Becker has put in on the job.

Then, just to make things extra confusing, Burgum called for more spending on higher education (general fund appropriations to the universities have increased more than 130 percent over the last decade) and then ripped the Legislature for spending too much on western North Dakota.

Burgum said there were oil patch communities which got money they didn’t ask for. If that’s true, it’s the first I’ve heard of it. I’m pretty sure there’s been broad, bi-partisan agreement that western North Dakota had big needs driven by oil boom impacts. Burgum’s accusation kind of seems out of left field.

In fact, Burgum very much came off as a guy who isn’t so much running to be the governor Fargo instead of the whole state.

Because pouring money into higher education is great for Fargo, where North Dakota State University is almost the foundation of the local economy. And there are probably plenty of people in Fargo who resent all the attention western North Dakota got in recent budget cycles.

Yet how does Burgum chart a path to victory by pandering to Fargo? Maybe he’s feeling spooked by that poll which showed him barely out of the single digits in terms of support everywhere in the state including the urban areas of the Red River Valley which were supposed to be his stronghold.

But Burgum can’t build the majority he needs to win the Republican primary in June by alienating western North Dakota. And I can’t imagine there are many people in western North Dakota who will watch the video above and come away thinking that Burgum is their candidate.

Becker, maybe, but not Burgum.