Governor Doug Burgum and Lt. Governor Brent Sanford announced they’re officially seeking reelection. The announcement came in a video that echoed much of their successful 2016 campaign messaging. Burgum’s campaign kicks off days after a national poll listed him as the 10th most popular Governor in the nation.
Though Burgum has an incredibly large electoral advantage and remains popular, his first term has not been without controversy. His Super Bowl trip led to public questioning of Burgum’s judgment. Audits further questioned Burgum and Sanford’s use of the state plane. A recent audit accused his administration of breaking the law in handing out state contracts. Gallion said it doesn’t appear to be a coincidence but a purposeful circumvention of state law by Burgum’s administration.
Unquestionably, Burgum faced a steep learning curve. Running government like a business sounds great in campaign ads but doesn’t easily translate to reality. Burgum was somewhat absent from the 2017 legislative session. He also believed he had the authority to do things he could not without legislative approval which increased the tension between his office and legislative Republicans. They were the same lawmakers who were still angry Burgum called them the “good old boys” and suggested they didn’t know what they were doing with the budget. Plus, Wayne Stenehjem was their guy in 2016. That anger spilled into the public domain.
There have been lawsuits between the Republican Governor and Republican Legislature. The Attorney General declared he overstepped his authority in the 2017 legislative session. Lawmakers wanted answers to Burgum and Sanford’s use of tax dollars. Republican appropriators in the House shouted at Burgum and changed the rules of how the Governor has his budget introduced to the Legislature. It hasn’t been pretty.
Burgum wants to focus on accomplishments. Some have questioned what exactly has been accomplished under his administration. I give credit to the administration for resolving the DAPL situation and improving the state-tribal relations. They’ve also done fantastic work changing the conversation on addiction. However, Burgum wants the main street initiative to be a highlight. Yet, years later small town North Dakota isn’t seeing the initiative accomplishing much for their communities. Reinventing government connects with video viewers, but where is it producing results?
North Dakota Democrats have seemingly disappeared and haven’t even begun getting prospects public attention. The real challenge would come within the NDGOP. People within political circles speculated whether or not Auditor Josh Gallion was positioning himself for a gubernatorial run. He’s not. This time. Perhaps a supporter of Gallion will show interest like Rep. Rick Becker who had a decent showing within the party last time he ran for Governor. I suspect that is not likely. With all this, Burgum is a likely shoo-in for reelection.