Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s gubernatorial campaign has announced an endorseemnt from former governor, and current U.S. Senator, John Hoeven:
On one hand, you’d kind of expect Hoeven to endorse Stenehjem if anyone. The two worked together for a long time in state government (both were elected to statewide office for the first time in 2000), and Stenehjem is the NDGOP’s convention-endorsed candidate while Burgum is not. From that perspective, Hoeven’s endorsement probably doesn’t so much help as it doesn’t hurt Stenehjem.
What would have hurt Stenehjem is if Hoeven had declined to endorse, or if he’d endorsed Burgum.
On the other hand, Hoeven is immensely popular with North Dakotans, having presided over some extremely successful years for the state, and in this time of uncertainty over North Dakota’s budget and economic situation his word endorsement counts for a lot. Also, Hoeven could definitely have stayed out of this race, which is what I sort of expected him to do. After all, Burgum has been a consistent contributor to his campaigns.
According to the FEC, Burgum gave the maximum allowable individual contribution to Hoeven in the 2010 cycle, the year he was first elected to the Senate, and has given $2,700 to Hoeven’s campaign fund so far in the 2016 cycle.
And Hoeven actually represents the second high-profile Republican who has sort of turned on Burgum even after he supported them. While current Governor Jack Dalrymple hasn’t officially endorsed in the race (UPDATE: A spokesman now says Dalrymple backs Stenehjem), he did write an op/ed firing back at some of Burgum’s criticism of state finances. “During this election cycle, some would have us believe that North Dakota’s economy is falling apart,” Dalrymple wrote, a clear reference to his former campaign chairman’s television ads. “The facts say otherwise.”
Burgum is trying to make this campaign about an outsider, a role he has cast himself in, versus the “establishment” or the “good old boys network.” I suppose some will see Hoeven’s endorsement of Stenehjem as just one member of the establishment/network endorsing another.
But the thing about successful politicians like Hoeven – the sort of people who get accused of being “establishment” etc., etc. – is that they’re successful because a lot of people support them. People (including this humble blogger at times) have been carping about Hoeven for almost two decades now, since he first won election to statewide office, yet the guy goes on winning one election after another in landslides.
That counts for something, which means his endorsement will probably count for something too when people are trying to choose between Burgum and Stenehjem.
— Rob Port (@robport) April 14, 2016