Expect NDGOP Chairman Kelly Armstrong to Be in the U.S. House Race Within a Week


North Dakota Republican Chairman Kelly Armstrong speaks during a U.S. Senate campaign rally for N.D. Rep. Kevin Cramer on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, at the Ramada in Bismarck. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Yesterday I wrote that NDGOP Chairman Kelly Armstrong was considering a run for the U.S. House now that Republican incumbent Kevin Cramer is in the Senate race.

Today sources tell me that Armstrong, who is also a state Senator from Dickinson, has been making calls this weekend to line up his campaign. “He is saying he will announce on Monday,” one source familiar with the conversations told me, though other sources have told me it’s more likely to be later in the week.

I’m also told that Armstrong sounds “amped up” about the campaign. Anyone familiar with Armstrong knows he has a kinetic manner about him. He’ll be an interesting candidate to watch.

One question his probable House candidacy raises is who will lead the NDGOP and preside over the state convention? The NDGOP vice chairs are Jim Poolman and Carma Hanson.

Poolman has told me on the record that he’s not interested in being party chair and would defer to whoever Governor Doug Burgum, ostensibly the leader of the party, would choose. I spoke with Hanson this morning and she told me she didn’t want to “put the cart before the horse” on a succession plan. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” she said.

Who leads the party will be important, because Armstrong is entering what will be a competitive House race, and the party will need a strong leader to act as referee amid the intraparty squabbling.

Yesterday erstwhile U.S. Senate candidate Tom Campbell, a state Senator from Grafton, switched to the House race.

Also officially in for Republicans is Hillsboro native Tiffany Abentroth who has a campaign website and an FEC filing but is almost entirely unknown to Republicans in the state.

Former NDGOP chairman Gary Emineth, who also had a Senate campaign at one point, hasn’t ruled out a House run.

Shane Goettle, who ran for the U.S. House back in 2012, has also expressed interest but his father died this week and he told me he wouldn’t be making any political decisions in the wake of that.

Former Congressman Rick Berg also isn’t ruling out a jump into the race.

Democrats have just once announced candidate, former state lawmaker Ben Hanson, but I’ve been told Aaron Krauter has been recruited for that race as well. Krauter was appointed to the Farm Service Agency by President Barack Obama. He was also a state lawmaker and he was current Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s running mate for her failed 2000 gubernatorial campaign.