Today Fargo businessman Doug Burgum’s campaign is touting a fluff piece in Forbes about his tech career and his candidacy for governor here in North Dakota:
— Burgum for ND (@DougForDakota) February 10, 2016
There’s really not a lot that’s interesting or revealing in the article – it was apparently written by a friend of Burgum’s from Bismarck – except for a correction having to do with Burgum’s political affiliation. Apparently the original version of the article, including the one set to appear in the Forbes print edition, reported that Burgum could maybe run as an independent:
I suspect the error in the article had to do with Burgum’s own confusion about running as an independent. While it wasn’t clear if Burgum would seek the Republican endorsement or run as an independent before he announced, this article was clearly written after he announced. And at his campaign launch, Burgum made it clear he’d campaign as a Republican.
Only, shortly after the campaign announcement, the candidate himself didn’t seem to be ruling out an independent run should he lose the primary vote, even though state law wouldn’t allow it.
This is a real problem for Burgum, I think. As I talk to Republicans in the state, a lot of them perceive Burgum as an opportunist campaigning as a Republicans because candidates with an “R” behind their name on the ballot stand a pretty good chance of winning in this state.
That’s a little unfair to Burgum who has a long track record of supporting the NDGOP and Republican candidates, but given how coy Burgum has been at times about the whole “independent” thing, it’s also hard to blame them for feeling that way.
Now we have a national media publication writing a story about Burgum after he announced a campaign as a Republican which somehow got the idea that the candidate might still flip and run as an independent.
By the way, Burgum could still run as an independent after the NDGOP state convention. If he doesn’t win at the convention – and even he has acknowledged that he probably won’t – he could put himself on the statewide ballot as an independent. The NDGOP convention will be held from April 1 – 3 in Fargo, and state law allows for those intending to run on the general election as an independent to begin collecting signatures for their petition on April 8. In order to be on the June primary ballot as a Republican, absent the state political party’s endorsement, Burgum would have to turn in petition signatures by April 11.
I think it would be a catastrophe for Burgum if he tried an independent run after pledging to seek the Republican nomination, though. When he’s on the June ballot as a Republican he could pull off a win over the convention-endorsed candidate – either Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem or Rep. Rick Becker – by appealing to Democrats cross over to vote on the Republican slate in our state’s wide-open primary.
But if Burgum went the other way, abandoning Republicans to run as an independent on the general election ballot instead? I think Burgum would get a lot of backlash from Republicans.
A Republican friend told me today that he thinks some Democrats would like Burgum to run as an independent, and that Democrats might even give Burgum their endorsement if he did that. But I’m not sure alienating Republicans so that you can be a Democrat-endorsed independent candidate is a viable path to victory in North Dakota.