For Republicans, sate Senator Tom Campbell, who had been campaigning for the U.S. Senate nomination, is on the record saying he’ll switch to the House race. Former NDGOP Chairman Gary Emineth, who had a Senate campaign until earlier this week, told me earlier today in a text message that he’s considering the House race. There is also Tiffany Abentroth, a mystery candidate I can’t seem to book for an interview or get any real information out of.
Now I can add another name to the list. Current NDGOP Chairman, and state Senator from District 36 in Dickinson, Kelly Armstrong is said to be strongly considering a run for the House.
One political observer went so far as to describe Armstrong as being the “front runner” in the race even despite Campbell’s involvement.
I reached out to Armstrong for comment but he hasn’t responded.
UPDATE: “Right now our focus is on making sure that we unseat Senator Heitkamp,” Armstrong told me via text message this afternoon. “It is absolutely critical for North Dakota. Kevin is obviously well positioned to do that. He has proven time and again that he understands the issues and will fight for North Dakota. Whatever shakes out in the house race is important too but those conversations can take place later.”
Armstrong’s entrance into that race, if it happens, probably isn’t going to please Campbell or his supporters. That camp was already upset with NDGOP leadership for continuing to recruit U.S. Senate candidates even after Campbell announced his campaign back in August. Their argument was that the party’s recruitment efforts was a vote of no confidence in Campbell’s candidacy.
So now Campbell, already upset with his party’s leadership for (in his eyes, anyway) undermining his campaign, may find himself competing against the leader of the party for the House nomination.
Armstrong would, of course, have to step down as party chair to run for the House nomination. I’m told that the succession plan for that move is part of what’s holding up Armstrong’s announcement.
I also reached out to Shane Goettle who ran for the U.S. House back in 2012 but failed to get the NDGOP’s nomination. I’d heard he might be interested in a House run, but when I reached him he’d just been alerted to a death in his family. “I’m not going to be making any important political decisions right now,” he told me.