If it wasn’t clear before that there has been a remarkable shift in the tone of gubernatorial candidate Doug Burgum’s campaign rhetroic, it’s clear now that we have a look at his first television ad of the general election.
During his primary campaign Burgum railed against the “good old boys club” in Bismarck, blasting the status quo in state leadership and, along the way, ruffling the feathers of quite a few lawmakers.
But now, while Burgum is sticking to tough talk about the state’s budget situation, he’s now saying he’s going to fix it by…working with the Legislature. Or, in other words, the “good old boys club” he campaigned against previously.
Meanwhile the “good old boys club” line has been taken over by Democrats. I heard that line used last week in a radio ad for state Rep. Ben Hanson who is running for re-election in West Fargo’s District 16.
Ironic, I know.
Anyway, I’m glad to hear Burgum’s shift in tone. I don’t necessarily disagree with the underlying message – I’ve been critical of the state’s profligacy during the oil boom for years now. And it was probably smart electoral politics. The “good old boys” thing tapped into a level of frustration in this state that surprised many, including this observer. But ultimately, once elected, Burgum has to work with a Legislature which isn’t likely to see many changes to its constitution.
Heading into the January legislative session, tasked with major budget overhauls, wouldn’t be easy if working with a hostile and resentful legislators.
But Burgum seems to have handled this shift deftly, which illustrates that he’s more of a politician than he’d like to admit. He didn’t have to change anything about his campaign, after all. Once he beat Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem in the primary there has never been any doubt that he’ll be our state’s next governor.
Thus the change in tone is a calculation intended to soften up lawmakers.
Not only is there a shift in his campaign’s tone, but Burgum has also been active on the campaign trail for Republican lawmakers facing tough re-election bids. I’ve spoken to multiple legislative candidates who had nothing but praise for Burgum’s assistance.
Let’s hope that good will remains into the legislative session so that Burgum can find fertile ground for what are, frankly, some intriguing ideas for budget reforms.