Race for Treasurer Continues to be the Battleground in Divided NDGOP

The 2020 political battle lines in North Dakota Republican circles continue to be focused on the Office of State Treasurer. The bitter fight among Republicans in the primary election has spilled into the general. Now, several conservatives appear to be throwing their support behind Democratic-NPL candidate Mark Haugen. Yes, conservative Republicans advocated to vote for a Dem-NPL candidate instead of Burgum’s candidate of choice, Thomas Beadle. Will it make much of an impact?

Recall the fight for the NDGOP Treasurer’s spot in the primary wasn’t just between Representatives Thomas Beadle and Dan Johnston. It was between Doug Burgum and Kevin Cramer. Cramer got the tweet endorsement of Donald Trump for Johnston. Burgum had the checkbook. Money spoke louder than Trump’s 280 characters.

You shouldn’t need much more proof to see some of the rank and file

Mark Haugen

NDGOP activists do not like Doug Burgum. They hope their distaste for him may land on Beadle at the ballot. Some of that anger rests on the amateur hour work of Burgum’s Dakota Leadership PAC where they created embarrassingly bad photoshop ads for Beadle. In fact, some of the work and claims were out-right disingenuous. Nevertheless it worked, but it also entrenched the far-right anger.

Forgive me for this, there is very little publicly available polling in ND. BUT, a poll of likely voters was conducted mid-September by a reputable pollster that understands ND. Though both candidates are relatively unknown (39% never heard of Beadle, while 43% never heard of Haugen), the poll showed Haugen was viewed more favorable than Beadle. Haugen had a 20% favorable view, 8% unfavorable, and 29% neutral. Beadle had 16% favorable, 18% unfavorable, and 28% neutral. The poll did not have a head-to-head of the race.

Money and time can change a lot in politics. Hell, think about what has changed in ND since mid-September on covid-19 alone. Beadle has reported having a large cash advantage. It also doesn’t hurt to have Burgum’s blank check if needed.

Meanwhile, Haugen is gaining endorsements from Republicans. Kris Cramer – Kevin Cramer’s wife – endorsed Haugen. Former Republican State Senator Joe Miller endorsed Haugen. Earlier today, Haugen shared on his social media that a conservative blog is encouraging their readers to vote for Haugen. It’s unclear what, if any, impact any of these endorsements will have on a Democratic candidate that has an inherent disadvantage solely based on the letter behind their name on the ballot.

The real fight is in the NDGOP. Burgum has won the first two-rounds at the ballot. He beat Stenehjem in 2016. He has beaten Cramer and Jeff Delzer so far in 2020. If he wins round three and gets his hand-selected candidate for Treasurer elected, don’t expect the fight to stop when the 2021 legislative session convenes.

Tyler Axness