Will House Candidate Kelly Armstrong Be Disadvantaged as a Western Lawmaker in a Statewide Race?


Kelly Armstrong is joined by his wife, Kjersti, daughter Anna Constance and son, Elias Patrick, on stage at the ND Republican Party convention for the endorsement for Congress Saturday at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks Saturday. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

State Senator Kelly Armstrong put up a decisive victory at the NDGOP convention this weekend, winning the party’s endorsement on the first ballot despite the presence of five other candidates in the race. Including state Senator Tom Campbell who had been running a big-money marketing campaign for himself since August.

The final vote was 847 delegates for Armstrong and just 480 for Campbell (with a few dozen votes cast for the other four candidates). Yet despite that outcome, both Campbell and Marine veteran Tiffany Abentroth are pushing on to the June primary (a gift for Democrats, I think).

One concern I heard expressed by many Republicans in the halls and hospitality rooms of the convention was that Armstrong, who is from Dickinson, might not appeal to Red River Valley voters. Both Campbell and Abentroth are from eastern North Dakota (the Grand Forks area).

It’s an important consideration, given that the Red River Valley has the state’s largest concentrations of voters.

Would Armstrong be at a disadvantage? We won’t really know until June. Armstrong has never been on the statewide ballot before. But looking at the geography of the convention vote, it seems as though Armstrong has plenty of appeal in the Red River Valley. This map – put together by Mark L. Johnson, Instructor of Political Science and History at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead – shows how the state’s various legislative districts voted in the House race click for a larger view):

I’m not sure to what degree we can use delegate votes as a proxy for how entire legislative districts will vote. In theory, these delegates are elected to represent their local districts at the state convention, but the reality is that most of the people voting on the June primary aren’t all that involved in their local district politics.

Still, if Armstrong is going to be disadvantaged by any east-west political divide, there wasn’t much evidence of it at the convention.