The North Dakota Republican Party’s gubernatorial primary has been a pitched battle between Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Fargo businessman Doug Burugm.
It’s a race that in a lot of ways has divided Republicans in the state. So which side is former Governor, and current President of the University of North Dakota, Ed Schafer on?
“I haven’t made up my mind on who I am voting for,” Schafer told talk radio host Scott Hennen this morning. “I am leaning toward Doug Burgum, because of his business background,” he said.
In his comments Schafer compared North Dakota’s current situation, with falling tax revenues and budget shortfalls, to the situation he faced in the 1990’s. He said that his business experience was useful in dealing with that situation and seemed to imply that Burgum’s business acumen would also be useful as North Dakota goes forward into a post-oil boom era.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”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.[/mks_pullquote]
“I look at it a little from conditions that we had in the 1990’s I was a business person coming in from the outside. I didn’t want to run government like a business, but my business experience…I think you can transfer to the public sector and the political structure,” he said.
Schafer also echoed a common Burgum campaign theme, which is that there are too many political insiders in Bismarck.
“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,” Schafer said of Burgum. “But I still have some time before I have to go into that voting booth.”
I suspect the Burgum folks are going to see this as something of a coup. Schafer hasn’t held public office in the state since 2000, but since then has served as the Secretary of Agriculture under George W. Bush and is still widely respected in the state. His opinion is going to count for a lot, especially among Republican primary voters.
Here’s the full audio:
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