Earlier today I criticized newly-minted gubernatorial candidate Doug Burgum for behaving like a politician even though he claims he isn’t one. You don’t get to run for public office while making calculated decisions about your path to the ballot, and dodging questions about your policy positions, while claiming you aren’t a politician.
Now here’s more evidence for the thesis. Apparently Burgum is telling some reporters that he hasn’t ruled out running as an independent in the general election if he loses the Republican nomination on the June primary ballot (emphasis mine):
Burgum notes names recognition may prove to be one of his biggest hurdles especially at the convention.
“Less than half the people in this state know who I am. You know? And I’m competing at least against one candidate who has higher name recognition than our current governor,” said Burgum.
He believes his message will resonate more with the people regardless of party persuasion.
If he’s right it could make him difficult to beat in an open primary state where Democrats and independents could vote red in June. And if he doesn’t win then Burgum didn’t rule out an independent run in the general.
“I haven’t said anything about that. I’m just, I’m just running from now until June 14th as a Republican,” said Burgum.
Uh, that’s not actually how it works, and it should be troubling for supporters of Burgum’s campaign that their candidate doesn’t understand this.
Candidates who seek their party’s nomination on the June ballot and lose cannot be on the general election ballot. That per 16.1-13-06 of the North Dakota Century Code:
Burgum cannot run as an independent in the general election if he’s already lost the Republican nomination in the June primary.
Burgum could run as an independent after the sate convention. The 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.
Here’s the thing, though. In order to be on the June primary ballot as a Republican, absent the state political party’s endorsement, Burgum has to turn in petition signatures by April 11.
So there is a window through which Burgum could seek the NDGOP’s endorsement at their state convention, but then skip the June primary ballot and gather signatures for the general as an independent.
How likely is that? Who knows. Burgum is something of a wildcard. But he is pretty forcefully on the record saying he’ll seek the Republican nomination. To backtrack on that after a convention loss is going to look like sour grapes to the electorate and hardly the sort of maneuvering the public expects from someone posturing as a non-politician.