Joins Crowded Republican Field
By THOMAS BEAUMONT and JACK DURA Associated Press
FARGO, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a former software entrepreneur who enacted a slate of laws this year advancing conservative policies on culture war issues, highlighted his small-town roots and business experience as he announced his candidacy for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination on Wednesday.
Burgum, 66, joins a long list of contenders hoping to dent former President Donald Trump’s early lead in the race. The governor of the nation’s fourth-least populous state made the announcement in the The Wall Street Journal and kicked off his campaign in Fargo, near the tiny farm town of Arthur where he grew up.
“It shouldn’t be a surprise that small-town values have guided me my entire life,” Burgum told the crowd. “And frankly, big cities could use more ideas and more values from small towns right now.”
Burgum spoke under a sign declaring him “A new leader for a changing economy,” echoing a slogan he first used as his successful 2016 gubernatorial campaign. Reelected in 2020, he’s eligible to run for a third time in 2024.
In 1983, he founded Great Plains Software, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2011, and Burgum stayed on as a Microsoft vice president until 2007.
His first presidential campaign event, held at a former church in downtown Fargo, was attended by many prominent North Dakota Republicans, including two former governors and top state lawmakers.
Burgum said he and the Legislature turned a budget deficit into a surplus, cut taxes and red tape, bolstered cybersecurity, revitalized North Dakota’s main streets, increased spending on education, strengthened tribal relations and boosted energy production. He said his state is one of the very few that’s growing and getting younger, with some of the lowest unemployment in the country.
“We know we could do the same for America,” he said. “Right now, the world, our economy, are both changing rapidly. And how we respond will define our future.”
North Dakota is one of the country’s top oil-producing states. Burgum alluded to that when he said energy policy can’t be separated from economic or national security policy and called on America to produce more energy to sell to its friends.
“(Russian President Vladimir) Putin only dared to invade Ukraine because our allies in Western Europe are all dependent on Russian energy,” he said.
Known to few outside North Dakota, Burgum faces an immense challenge in a field dominated by Trump and the better-known governor in the race, Ron DeSantis of Florida. Trump’s super PAC dismissed Burgum’s entry, predicting in a statement that Burgum will “waste millions of dollars only to lose.”
As evidence of Burgum’s long odds, he wasn’t even the most notable candidate to announce a presidential campaign on Wednesday. Four hundred miles to the south, former Vice President Mike Pence launched his White House bid in Iowa.
Burgum will campaign Thursday and Friday in Iowa, home of the first-in-the-nation Republican caucuses, and Saturday and Sunday in New Hampshire, which hosts the first GOP primary.
In a video updated for the kick-off event, Burgum portrayed himself as a common-sense, rural state conservative, distinctly experienced in energy policy and far removed from the bitter war of words between Trump and DeSantis as the campaign heats up.
“Let’s get things done. In North Dakota, we listen with respect, and we talk things out. That’s how we can get America back on track,” Burgum says in the video, which features breathtaking vistas from across North Dakota.
The laws he signed this year include banning abortion with few exceptions up to six weeks’ gestation. Other laws prohibit schools and government agencies from requiring their employees to refer to transgender people by the pronouns they use, as well as barring transgender girls and women from competing in women’s sports.
His video also touched subtly on his opposition to “woke” ideology, a catch-all term that conservatives use to denigrate policies or ideas that acknowledge the existence of social injustice and racial inequality.
“I grew up in a tiny town in North Dakota,” Burgum said. “Woke was what you did at 5 a.m. to start the day.”
In addition to Trump, DeSantis and Pence, Burgum will be facing off against former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, anti-woke activist Vivek Ramaswamy, conservative talk radio host Larry Elder and businessman Perry Johnson.
The GOP nominee is expected to face Democratic President Joe Biden in 2024.