Last week Fargo businessman Doug Burgum announced that he would be making an announcement this week regarding a potential gubernatorial campaign as a Republican.
I spent the weekend putting out feelers in political circles about the potential Burgum candidacy, and of the more than two dozen elected leaders and political insiders I spoke with not a single one told me they thought Burgum wasn’t going to run.
A few said they didn’t know. Most said they thought he was in.
My personal opinion is that, at least as of last week, Burgum actually hasn’t made a decision. We know that as of January 5 he still had pollsters calling up North Dakotans to measure his support among voters. It takes time to complete that sort of polling and produce meaningful and actionable reports from it. I suspect that Burgum didn’t have those results in hand yet on January 7 when he announced his intention to announce something.
[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]In the political rumor mill the nature of rumors tend to favor the sensational. And there’s no question that Burgum getting into the gubernatorial race would be sensational.[/mks_pullquote]
Burgum’s announcement last week was about getting the media off his back. I wrote a few posts about Burgum last week, and many in the rest of the media use this blog as a sort of tip sheet, so I’m certain his office was getting a lot of calls on this topic. I think the announcement was thus less a political calculation than just Burgum buying himself some time to make a decision.
I still don’t think it’s a certainty he will run. Yet just about everybody I spoke with in political circles seems to think it is. Though nobody I spoke with was in a position to actually know for certain.
In the political rumor mill the nature of rumors tend to favor the sensational. And there’s no question that Burgum getting into the gubernatorial race would be sensational.
It would likely mean that the NDGOP nomination battle for the gubernatorial ticket wouldn’t be settled at the NDGOP convention in April. If Burgum’s in the race he’s sure to push it to the June primary vote.
Burgum in the race would also make what seemed a relatively safe path to victory for Stenehjem against state Rep. Rick Becker a much less certain path. Stenehjem would still be the favorite, absolutely, but Burgum and his fortune would be a wild card for sure.
The real challenge for Burgum in getting into this race will be his policy platform. He has the money and resources to neutralize Stenehjem’s name recognition advantage, but he’s also going to have to take positions on sticky policy issues he’s never had to touch before.
Burgum is well known as something of an evangelist for urban planning and development. He’s also made some modest statements at time on social issues like gay marriage. But if he wants to be the Republican candidate for governor he will have to take firm and well-articulated positions on everything from gun control to abortion to energy development. All the more so because Burgum, unlike Stenehjem, doesn’t have a long track record of policy making to point to as evidence of his convictions.
Burgum’s announcement last week said we’d be getting more details at a later date about his announcement this week. If those details include multiple locations for the announcement, or anything else aimed at building the hype around the announcement, then I think we can safely conclude that he’s in.