As expected, Fargo businessman Doug Burgum announced his candidacy today for governor. And, as expected, he says he’s running as a Republican.
But here’s where things get interesting. While Burgum said he plans to compete for the NDGOP nomination “vigorously” at the party’s convention this spring in Fargo, he says he has no real expectation of winning at the convention and fully intends to seek the nomination on the June primary ballot.
Which sort of makes the NDGOP convention moot. At least for the gubernatorial candidates. How much should the existing candidates – Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and state Rep. Rick Becker – invest into winning the nomination at the convention when Burgum will keep the fight going even after delegates have cast their ballots?
Burgum says he would be an “outsider” at the convention, but that’s sort of rich coming from a guy who has delivered nominating speeches for top-tier Republican candidates at more than one convention. I mean, you don’t get to be an honorary campaign committee chairman for politicians like Jack Dalyrmple and John Hoeven without being something of an insider in state politics. I think Burgum is posturing a bit, for reasons I’ll get into later.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″] While Burgum said he plans to compete for the NDGOP nomination “vigorously” at the party’s convention this spring in Fargo, he says he has no real expectation of winning at the convention and fully intends to seek the nomination on the June primary ballot.[/mks_pullquote]
Anyway, Burgum’s announcement was interesting to say the least. “I don’t want to be a politician,” he told the audience. It was clear from the way his event was staged that he wants to continue to be a business visionary, only one who is running for political office.
I’m not sure how well it will work. We can all be cynical about why politicians are the way they are, but they are that way because it works. I’m not sure that Burgum carrying on his candidacy as though he were Steve Jobs announcing the next iPhone is going to play well with voters. In Fargo this morning he delivered the audience 40 minutes of a power point presentation about his life – from a darkened stage, no less – before getting around to his political intentions.
We did see glimpses of things that might work for Burgum on the campaign trail. He and his family have a long a rich history in our state. His history as an entrepreneur who has kept his focus on North Dakota is going to play well with voters. And Burgum’s passion for his family and his state came through clearly. He must have choked up a half dozen times on stage, and while any given politician worth their salt (even those who claim to not want to be politicians) can summon emotion at the appropriate moment, Burgum’s tears seemed authentic to this observer.
But one thing Burgum may learn quickly is that voters care a great deal more about what a given candidate is going to do for them than about that candidate’s personal story.
Again, the audience in Fargo had to wait 40 minutes before Burgum got to the point of today’s announcement. While I understand that he felt his personal story was an important part of his announcement, to many voters that sort of thing is going to come off as an exercise in ego.
And if there’s one thing North Dakotans don’t want in their leaders, it’s ego.
UPDATE: Here’s the press release sent out by Burgum’s campaign: