Published January 31, 2024

Democrat Trygve Hammer to challenge Armstrong for House seat

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The Dakotan
| The Dakotan

Democrat Trygve Hammer filed to run for North Dakota’s 2024 U.S. House race, vowing the time for Democrats “retreating” is over. 

Hammer’s Jan. 2 candidacy filing with the Federal Election Commission is early in the election cycle, which was by design, according to his campaign manager, so they can raise his profile and begin fundraising.

“North Dakota has a lot of mail-in voting and you can start doing that early,” Hammer said. “We know we’re at a big disadvantage, but I think we’re going to surprise some people and I’m going to be working really hard to make that happen.”

Hammer, who plans a formal campaign announcement next week, said he knows it’s going to be an uphill climb to defeat well-funded incumbent Rep. Kelly Armstrong, a Republican. 

Hammer, of Minot, said he believes his work and military experiences will help him connect with North Dakota voters who may feel disaffected by the current Republican party.

“There are a lot of Republicans here who are not Matt Gaetz-Republicans, they are not Jim Jordan-Republicans,” Hammer said. “They are tired of that little cabal in the House of Representatives having their way with everything. And the only way that doesn’t happen in the next session is if Republicans do not have the majority; otherwise, it’s going to be the same dynamic going on.”

Hammer has diverse work and military experience, which included the Naval Academy where he became a Marine helicopter pilot and a deployment to Iraq in 2003 as a platoon commander. Hammer also experienced working the Bakken oilfields and as a science teacher in Granville.

Most recently, Hammer left a position as a train conductor in Minot, a job he held for a little over a year.

He also believes his last two campaigns in 2020 and 2022 have prepared him for what lies ahead.

In 2020, Hammer and Democratic colleague Arnold Langehaug lost a District 6 state House race to Republicans Dick Anderson and Paul Thomas. District 6 is a large district in north-central North Dakota.

Hammer also lost a statewide bid to become a member of the state’s Public Service Commission in 2022, losing with 30% of votes to Republican Sheri Haugen-Hoffart. 

“After that last race, one of things that happened was, everywhere I went, I’d have people say, ‘I would’ve voted for you, but I didn’t know anything about you. I didn’t know who you were,’” he said. “I know in order to win that I need to get my story out there and that’s gonna take some fundraising and we’re being serious about that.”

Hammer also said he knows the Democratic party, as a whole, has lost the messaging battle with Republicans through media and television pundits, which means that messaging can’t be ignored any longer.

“We thought the messaging was ridiculous, so we ignored it,” he said. “We all thought Rush Limbaugh was full of it, and he was, but you gotta answer that stuff sometimes … we are coming out of that now. We’re on the attack and we’re not retreating anymore.”

Democrats do not hold any congressional seats or statewide elected offices in North Dakota.

Armstrong, an attorney, was first elected to the U.S. House in 2018. In 2022, he defeated independent candidate Cara Mund with 62% of votes. Previously, Armstrong served as state senator from Dickinson and as chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party.

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