Doug Burgum wins GOP primary for North Dakota governor

Cheryl Sanders
June 15, 2016

Fargo businessman Doug Burgum upended the North Dakota Republican Party establishment Tuesday by delivering a stunning and convincing defeat to Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem in a hard-fought and expensive primary campaign.

With 312 of 432 precincts reporting, unofficial results from the North Dakota Secretary of State's office had Fargo businessman Doug Burgum leading with 60.2 percent of the vote to Stenehjem's 37.9 percent.

"I reminded him that all of us who are elected to office are expected to govern and that's exactly what we will do", said Stenehjem, who is up for re-election as attorney general in 2018 but hasn't decided whether he'll run.

Tim Rasmussen, communications director for the Stenehjem campaign, said a call of congratulations was made to Burgum shortly after the race was called.

Supporters of the so-called ham-and-cheese law say the exemption is needed to save the two dying industries by giving them more access to capital and opportunities to expand.

Burgum's apparent takedown of Stenehjem wasn't easy: It took months of crisscrossing the state to raise his public profile for those who might not recognize him outside the Fargo area or the Red River Valley.

Opponents said family farming had served North Dakota well and that the law was an invitation for big, out-of-state corporations to set up operations in the state. That is until Burgum crashed the race January 14 with his considerable wealth and personal success story as an Arthur native who led Great Plains Software in Fargo from a startup through its sale to Microsoft for $1.1 billion in 2001 and served as a Microsoft executive until 2007.

The latest on Tuesday's primary election in North Dakota.


Burgum attributed his upset to his dedicated campaign staff and volunteers - an effort that continued through Election Day when hundreds of volunteers worked to get out the vote in 35 communities around the state.

Mark Watne, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, was elated with the vote.

Voters in even-numbered legislative districts will determine which House and Senate hopefuls advance to November.

Republicans will have to decide primary races in three districts. "We need to shake things up".

After filling out his ballot, he thanked all the election workers and told them he hoped for a large turnout.

The voting hours in North Dakota vary by county but are generally open from 7 a.m.to 7 p.m. local time.

Outside the polling place, Burgum said in an interview that he's confident after a campaign that saw him travel 16,000 miles across the state in a 1974 GMC bus.

That's second only to the 53,463 early votes cast in 2012 primary when voters rejected hot-button measures that would have abolished property taxes and required the University of North Dakota to keeps its Fighting Sioux nickname. The city received 2 ½ inches of rain between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m., breaking the city record for this date of just under 2 inches in 1970, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Ken Simosko. The rain was still falling at midday and expected to continue throughout the afternoon.


Stenehjem, who is in the middle of his four-year term as attorney general, will continue to serve with the next governor and the agriculture commissioner on the state Industrial Commission, which regulates North Dakota's oil industry.

Glatt says turnout for primaries often depends on what's on the ballot.

There are two main issues to be settled on the statewide level.

Burgum has been a major contributor to the Republican Party and its candidates, but his decision to seek the GOP nomination regardless of the convention's outcome rubbed many party faithful the wrong way.

North Dakota Republican Party Chairman Kelly Armstrong congratulated Burgum on a hard-earned victory.

The victor is expected to be a heavy favorite in November over state Rep. Marvin Nelson.

Libertarian Party candidate Marty Riske is running unopposed in the primary.

The race grew increasingly bitter in its final weeks, with Stenehjem and his supporters questioning the authenticity of Burgum's self-proclaimed conservatism, particularly on social issues such as abortion, and Burgum doubling down on his criticism of Stenehjem as a career politician unsuited to lead the state through tough economic times.


BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota's attorney general and a former Microsoft executive faced off Tuesday in a Republican primary likely to decide the state's next governor, and voters also weighed whether to exempt pork and dairy operations from a Depression-era ban on corporate farming.

Other reports by iNewsToday

FOLLOW OUR NEWSPAPER