Ed Schafer Saying He'll Vote For Doug Burgum Is A Big Deal


Ed Schafer will finish his interim presidency of UND later this month. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Ed Schafer – a former governor of our great state and current University of North Dakota interim President – hinted previously in a talk radio interview that he was leaning towards supporting Fargo businessman Doug Burgum over Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem in the NDGOP’s gubernatorial primary.

Yesterday he confirmed it definitively to the Grand Forks Herald. “Schafer also said he is voting for Doug Burgum to be the Republican candidate for governor in the North Dakota primary election this month,” reporter Anna Burleson wrote yesterday.

That’s a big coup for Burgum who has run an expensive and energetic campaign, complete with big-money contributions from people like Bill Gates, but one largely devoid of major in-state endorsements from current or former office holders. That’s tough for a candidate with no track record of governing for voters to evaluate.

Schafer’s vote of confidence will go a long way with voters, I think. Something that will help shore up uncertainty about Burgum’s intentions for the state.

What is Schafer’s reasoning? When he spoke with talk radio host Scott Hennen he said he liked Burgum’s business background and outsider perspective.

“We have an established officeholder situation in Bismarck. We have kind of the insider groups that are there who are status quo and just kind of do everything the way we do it. I think it’s good sometimes to turn government upside down and get some fresh faces,” he said. “I like his business background and I like his push to change the way we’re doing things and swap that budget around to a new principle and new direction.”

It’s worth noting that Robert Harms, the lobbyist and former NDGOP chairman who has been an adviser to Burgum’s campaign, was legal counsel to Schafer when he was serving as governor in the 1990’s.

Still, I think Schafer probably sees an echo of his own political career – he, too, was a successful businessman who jumped into politics – in Burgum’s bid for governor.