Published May 18, 2024

NDGOP governor candidates Armstrong, Miller report comparable primary war chests

Written by
The Dakotan
| The Dakotan

BY: MICHAEL ACHTERLING (North Dakota Monitor)

North Dakota Republican-endorsed governor candidate Rep. Kelly Armstrong reported four times the number of large-dollar donors as his Republican competitor Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller in their quests to become the state’s next governor.

The candidates’ pre-primary campaign financial disclosures with the Secretary of State’s Office also showed each candidate making contributions of at least $1 million to their respective campaigns.

Armstrong reported contributing $1 million in personal funds along with a $100,000 contribution from his congressional fundraising committee. Miller donated $2.3 million to her campaign.

In total, Armstrong reported donations of more than $3 million as of May 16. Nearly 450 individuals or organizations gave $200 or more, with large support coming from the energy industry and political action committees. Armstrong also received more than $17,000 in donations under $200. 

The top donors to Armstrong’s campaign are:

  • $500,000 – Michael Armstrong, Armstrong’s father and president of Armstrong Corp., Dickinson.
  • $100,000 – The Bipartisan Network PAC, Washington D.C.
  • $50,000 – Jim Arthaud, owner of MBI Oil and Gas, Dickinson.
  • $50,000 – R. Todd Slawson, president of Slawson Exploration, an oil company that operates in the Bakken.

As of the pre-primary reporting deadline of May 10, Armstrong reported having more than $969,000 cash on hand. However, campaign finance reports show he has raised more than $100,000 in large-dollar donations not reflected on the May 10 report.

Miller reported donations of $2.7 million during the reporting period that ended May 2. About 100 people donated more than $200, with no funds coming from political action committees or organizations. Her total also includes more than $5,700 in donations under $200. 

The top donors to Miller’s campaign are:

  • $100,000 – Gary Tharaldson, CEO of Tharaldson Hospitality Management, Fargo.
  • $25,000 – Keith and Rondi McGovern, president of R.D. Offutt Company, Fargo.
  • $25,000 – Franklin and Shelly Neal, president of PROffutt Limited Partnership, Fargo.
  • $25,000 – Scott and Kelly Steffes, owner, Thoreson Steffes Trust Company, Fargo.
  • $25,000 – Richard Thoreson, investment manager, Thoreson Steffes Trust Company, Fargo.

She ended the reporting period with just over $679,000 in cash on hand, the report shows.

Campaign manager Dawson Schefter said Miller has been focusing on hosting town halls and meet-and-greet events around the state, and will continue to do so leading up to the primary.

“Tammy has been to over 40 communities already and will spend the next month stopping in dozens more towns across North Dakota,” Schefter said. “We’ll continue to share Tammy’s story so voters have a clear choice on Election Day: a conservative business leader and outsider with a positive vision for North Dakota, or a career politician with negative attacks.”

A series of negative ads titled Tall Tale Tammy targeting Miller were paid for by the Armstrong campaign. Miller’s campaign has also targeted Armstrong with negative ads, including criticizing him for working as a trial lawyer.

Gov. Doug Burgum did not make donations to either candidate for governor. Burgum, who named Miller his lieutenant governor in January 2023, has endorsed Miller as his preferred replacement for the state’s highest office. Former North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple and his wife, Betsy, each donated $2,500 to Armstrong’s campaign, records show.

In a statement, Armstrong said his campaign was going to finish strong in the final weeks of the primary campaign.

“We are going to run through the tape,” Armstrong said. “We are going to continue to meet with people all across the state. We will be on TV, radio, digital and mail.”

Democratic-NPL governor candidate, Sen. Merrill Piepkorn, D-Fargo, announced his candidacy for the office on April 2; two days before the Dem-NPL state convention. Over the six weeks, Piepkorn raised more than $63,000 as of May 14, which included a more than $7,600 donation from his state Senate fundraising committee. He ended the filing period with more than $53,000 in cash-on-hand. Piepkorn’s supporters include former U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy and former U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, both Democrats.

Independent governor candidate Michael Coachman has not submitted signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office to be considered an official candidate for the office. Coachman has until Sept. 3 to submit his signatures and be included on the November general election ballot.

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