James Kerian: If Doug Burgum Stays This Conservative He Could Be A Great Governor


Doug Burgum is going to be the next governor of North Dakota.  If he governs on the positions he took at the beginning of his campaign this could be a disaster.  But if he governs in the way he presented himself over the last few weeks he may turn out to be a fantastic governor.

At the beginning of his campaign Burgum was beloved by both Joel Heitkamp and the Fargo Forum editorial board due to his left-wing positions on abortion and gender dysphoria.

During the last legislative session Burgum gave an interview in which he advocated enthusiastically for SB 2279.  The stated purpose of this bill was to prohibit “discrimination” on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  The activist left has decided that allowing into the women’s restroom only people with two X Chromosomes is one form of such discrimination so this bill, if passed, would have essentially been a statewide version of Obama’s recent bathroom edict.  In 2015 Doug Burgum had nothing but praise for this idea.

Shortly after he announced his campaign Doug Burgum repeated his opposition to pro life legislation.  He stated in an interview with Rob Port that he would have vetoed all but one of the pro life bills that passed the legislature with bipartisan support and were signed by Governor Dalrymple in 2013.

But as Burgum explained during an interview with Chris Berg on Monday evening his statements on these issues have changed significantly since the beginning of his campaign:

“I’m evolving as a person and as a candidate, and I think again I’m learning and I’ve certainly come a long way in my understanding because, again, I’ve traveled sixteen or seventeen thousand miles across the state and held hundreds of events in front of thousands of North Dakotans….Do we want leaders who are willing to learn and to listen?”

In January Doug Burgum was “non-committal” about SB 2279 (the sexual orientation and gender identity bill he had previously supported) and said he remembered there were some parts of it that he didn’t like.  By April he was committed to ensuring that only local jurisdictions would make decisions about gender identity policies (precluding a statewide bill like SB 2279).  By the end of May Burgum was calling for North Dakota to join a lawsuit to fight against Obama’s bathroom edict.

His development on pro life legislation has been equally impressive.  When he stated during the debate last Friday that he would have signed each of the pro life bills that Governor Dalrymple signed he seemed at first reluctant to acknowledge that this constituted a change in his position.

But during his interview with Chris Berg on Monday Burgum was very forthright about this development:

Chris Berg: Back on January 20th you said you would not have signed the heartbeat bill, now you say that you would.  Is that part of your evolution and learning process as well?

Doug Burgum: Yes absolutely.

Chris Berg: If you are our next governor can people count on you to be pro life and to sign pro life bills?

Doug Burgum: Yes.

So the question now is will Governor Burgum be the man he was at the end of his campaign or will he revert to the views he espoused at the beginning of his campaign? Did he really evolve and learn and change his views as he traveled around the state and listened?  Or did he lie to everyone to win an election when his pollsters told him his views were way out of step with the voters?

Several months ago I wrote that I found Rick Becker’s conversion to the pro life movement convincing.  I am similarly optimistic about Doug Burgum.  Early in the campaign I had the opportunity to speak with him in person and while his positions were in no way reassuring he did give the impression of a man who was looking seriously at these issues for the first time.

But whether my optimism is warranted or not Doug Burgum is going to be governor.  So we will all find out soon if he is a man who learned or a man who lied.