Yesterday the delegates at the NDGOP convention in Bismarck made their endorsement for governor, and they picked Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.
The race continues, however, as Fargo millionaire Doug Burgum has vowed to keep going to the June primary despite topping out at 15 percent of the delegate vote.
The man in the formerly three-man-race who isn’t going on, though, is state Rep. Rick Becker who got 37.75 percent of the vote on the second ballot. But he kind of feels like he won anyway.
“When I got up to do the concession speech, which really wasn’t a concession speech, but I had an amazing outpouring of amazing support,” he told me during an interview this morning. “When I felt that positive energy and support, it was a really genuine moment. All sense of disappointment left me. I really felt – I feel like it’s corny to say – but I felt like I had achieved a victory.”
“It’s the recognition and desire for people who are going to further the principles,” he added. “That’s the victory.”
He isn’t joking about the positive feelings. He must have been interrupted a half dozen times by delegates complimenting him on his campaign.
“I wish I had a clicker,” he said. “It’s just phenomenal.”
He said some of the people coming up to him were urging him to keep his campaign going until June, but he said he couldn’t do that because he’d promised not to.
“We talked about principle and character,” he said. “I tell them I gave my word. They recognize that’s important.”
He said he is definitely interested in running for statewide office again in future cycles. One race he’s thinking about is the 2018 U.S. Senate race.
“They’re pushing for me to take Heidi down,” he said. “And I would enjoy taking Heidi down or at least trying.”
“I do think we have momentum,” he added. “I think I moved attention to focus on conservative principles. I want to focus on that.”
But for now, his focus has returned to his job in the Legislature, where a new session is set to convene in January.
“I have at least eight bills sitting on the back burner for the session,” he said.
I asked him if he felt the convention endorsement process was fair.
“Yeah,” he responded immediately.
“There were little tiny things,” he added. “It was a fair enough process that the tiny things a person might have an issue with wouldn’t have made a difference.”
Would he endorse Stenehjem or Burgum in the primary race?
“I’ve not given it full consideration,” he said. “My initial reaction is to say that I’m not going to endorse. I’m not sure that people who supported me are looking to me to know who to vote for.”
Who does he think his supporters would support? He feels they’re 50/50.
“In my mind it will be totally split,” he said. “So for me to endorse one or another I don’t think it will have an affect. It’s probably smartest just not to.”
“Some of my supporters are just so completely tired of the establishment and the status quo are going to go to Doug Burgum,: he added. “Other of my supporters are going to think that Burgum is furthering the problems in the Republican party with social issues and some of the corporate welfare issues.”
For those buzzing about Becker as a potential running mate for one of the remaining candidates, Becker says it’s not possible. “There isn’t any paperwork in with my name on it which was due on Tuesday, so couldn’t happen even if I was interested,” he said.
The buzz after the convention gaveled out yesterday was how much of a surprise Burgum’s success was. Granted, some of that had to do with Doug Burgum eating up more than 15 percent of the vote on the first ballot. And when Burgum began to fade, even Becker acknowledge that more of his support from delegates when to Stenehjem.
But there’s no question that Becker has touched on a message which resonates with, if not an outright majority of Republican activists, at least a strong plurality which should not be ignored.