In my newspaper column today I note that North Dakota’s peculiar laws – a lack of voter registration and a wide-open primary – will allow people who aren’t Republicans to vote in the North Dakota Republican party’s hotly contested gubernatorial race.
This unusual situation was the first thing I thought of when Fargo businessman Doug Burgum announced his candidacy for governor on Thursday. “The big lie about being a politician is that one group of people has to be right and the other has to be wrong,” he told the crowd at his Fargo campaign event.
Translation: Vote for me, Democrats.
And they can, too. On primary day in June when voters show up at the polls to choose a Democrat or Republican ballot on which they’ll choose the respective party’s candidates, Senator Heidi Heitkamp herself could declare herself a Republican and help choose the NDGOP’s candidates.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]For you Democrats snickering about the predicament this presents for Republicans, remember that it is your utter incompetence and irrelevance which brought us to this crossroads. If your party mattered we wouldn’t be talking about how the Republican primary is going to decide who the next governor is going to be.[/mks_pullquote]
If that seems ludicrous to you, it is.
“If he decides to go to the convention we will welcome him with open arms,” NDGOP chairman Kelly Armstrong told me about Burgum for my column. Armstrong also told me he “won’t be very happy” if Burgum skips the convention.
Burgum, in a decidedly political maneuver for someone who postures himself as not-a-politician, has decided to have it both ways. He’s going to the convention, but he’ll also ignore the convention outcome and run to the June primary where Democrats, unlikely to have much incentive to vote on the own ballot given a dearth of competitive races, will be free to vote for him.
For you Democrats snickering about the predicament this presents for Republicans, remember that it is your utter incompetence and irrelevance which brought us to this crossroads. If your party mattered we wouldn’t be talking about how the Republican primary is going to decide who the next governor is going to be.
And let’s be fair to Burgum. While many slap the “RINO” (Republican In Name Only) tag on him, that’s not really fair. Sure, he’s probably too far to the left on many issues for some Republicans, but he is a Republican. He has spent tens of thousands of dollars over the years supporting Republican candidates. He has been a delegate at NDGOP conventions for years, and has also frequently addressed convention delegates.
He’s as much a Republican as Kevin Cramer or John Hoeven is. He may even be a great governor. I’m anxious to hear more about Burgum’s positions on energy development as well as taxation and budget policy.
The problem is that Burgum is being a bit of a rascal in apparently seeking to leverage our state’s wide-open primary, and his appeal among Democrats who see futility in supporting their own candidates, to short circuit front runner Wayne Stenehjem’s obvious advantages.
What he is doing is certainly within the rules. It’s also a little devious.
We’ll see in coming weeks whether or not Burgum disavows this tact our doubles down on it. One thing is certain, though. Going forward North Dakota needs to look at reform this process. The candidates representing Republicans and Democrats and Libertarians, etc., etc. should be chosen by people who are members of those parties as defined by the parties themselves.
If Burgum is the Republican nominee it would be nice to know that it reflects the will of Republicans.