BISMARCK — North Dakota House Appropriations Chairman Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, appears to have come up short against two newcomers supported by Gov. Doug Burgum in the state's Republican primary elections on Tuesday, June 9.

The longtime lawmaker has collected 22% of the vote, compared to Dave Nehring's 30% and David Andahl's 29%, with all seven precincts fully reporting unofficial results. Republican candidate Bob Wheeler has also received 18% of the vote.

The top two vote-getters will move on to the November general election, where they will be favored against Democratic-NPL candidates Linda Babb and Kathrin Volochenko.

Delzer, who has represented the district north of Bismarck since the 1990s, faced heavy opposition from "the two Daves" after Burgum threw his weight and money behind them. In all, Burgum has contributed nearly $1.9 million to a political committee that paid for negative mailings and multimedia advertising against Delzer and promotional media in support of Andahl and Nehring.

The Burgum-funded committee also heavily supported Fargo Rep. Thomas Beadle's campaign for state treasurer and tried to tear down his opponent, Rep. Dan Johnston, R-Kathryn. Johnston brought some firepower of his own to the race with the support and financial backing of U.S. Kevin Cramer, R-ND, and a surprise tweet endorsement from President Donald Trump.

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So far, the race is too close to call. Beadle has received 52% of the vote to Johnston’s 48%, in unofficial results with 384 of 422 precincts fully reporting. The winner will take on Democrat Mark Haugen in November.

Current Republican Treasurer Kelly Schmidt, who has endorsed Johnston, announced last year she will not seek a fifth term at the helm of the office, which is one of the state government's smallest.

The highly competitive races for Delzer's seat and the treasurer's office have laid bare the ideological divisions in the party, as Burgum-backed candidates take on established legislators and several lawmakers, like Johnston, who are aligned with the ultra-conservative Bastiat Caucus.

Burgum has never publicly expressed that he would like to unseat Delzer, but there has been friction between the two politicians in the past over a rule change in the budgeting process. The Bastiats, led by Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, have voted against many of Burgum's favored initiatives and projects.

Meanwhile, Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford have so far trounced their Republican primary opponents, Michael Coachman and Joel Hylden.

Burgum and Sanford have received 89% of the vote to Coachman and Hylden’s 10%, in unofficial results with 384 of 422 precincts fully reporting.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. Forum file photo
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. Forum file photo

Tuesday's primary elections were conducted completely by mail due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19. Nearly 155,000 North Dakotans sent back ballots they had received from the counties. Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum warned against calling any non-landslide races because ballots postmarked by Monday can still be counted until next week.

Legislative round-up

In the District 28 House race, incumbent and locally endorsed Republicans Mike Brandenburg and Jeff Magrum lead Jim Grueneich, who recently moved to the district in south-central North Dakota after serving as a state representative for the Jamestown area.

The Burgum-funded committee targeted Magrum, who is aligned with the Bastiat Caucus. The top two vote-getters will go on to face Democratic-NPL candidate Rebecca Phillips in November.

In a district that encompasses most of the area between Fargo and Grand Forks, Bastiat-aligned Rep. Aaron McWilliams, R-Hillsboro, appears to have fallen short against locally endorsed newcomers Mike Beltz and Jared Hagert. McWilliams was originally elected in 2017 when he ran as the only Republican in the district.

If the result holds, Beltz and Hagert will face off with Democratic-NPL candidates John Martin Pederson and Zachary Blotsky.

In the District 12 Senate race, Cole Conley easily beat out Willy Mickelson for the Republican nomination. Conley will take on Democratic incumbent John Grabinger in November for the district in Jamestown.

In the District 12 House race, incumbent Rep. Bernie Satrom and recently appointed Republican Mitch Ostlie appear to have beaten Grant Christensen for the Republican nomination, according to unofficial results. The margin between Ostlie and Christensen is just 43 votes. If all holds, Satrom and Ostlie will face Democrats George Barnes and Pam Musland in November.

In the District 34 Senate race, Doug Larsen appears to have upset former commerce director and locally endorsed Republican Al Anderson for the party's nomination. If results hold, Larsen will face Democratic-NPL candidate Adam Michal in November for the district in Mandan.

In the District 36 Senate race, incumbent Sen. Jay Elkin beat Steven Hanel for the Republican nomination. Elkin will likely retain his seat in the western North Dakota district as there is no Democratic-NPL challenger.