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Candidates for North Dakota's lone U.S. House seat square off in debate

Incumbent Republican Rep. Kelly Armstrong and Independent challenger Cara Mund discussed numerous issues on Tuesday, Sept. 27, including abortion, student loans, Social Security and inflation.

Mund Armstrong.jpg
Incumbent U.S. Rep Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., and Independent challenger Cara Mund are facing off for North Dakota's lone U.S. House seat.
Forum News Service file photos
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BISMARCK — As the midterm elections inch closer, candidates for North Dakota’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives attempted to differentiate themselves during a Tuesday night, Sept. 27 debate in Bismarck.

Incumbent Republican Rep. Kelly Armstrong and Independent challenger Cara Mund squared off in the debate, which was aired on and hosted by Prairie Public with support from the AARP of North Dakota. The pair discussed numerous issues including abortion, student loans, Social Security and inflation.

Mund has previously said she would likely caucus with Republicans if elected, but said Tuesday that the ball would be in the Republicans’ court and questioned whether she would even be welcome in the party.

“Things that make us different is that I see women as equals. I see women as they have the right to make their own health care decisions,” said Mund, a former Miss North Dakota and the state’s first Miss America.

Mund, who received a degree from Brown University and is a recent graduate of Harvard Law School, said she would have voted for the PACT Act, which provides additional coverage for veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits during military service.

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The 28-year-old added she would have also voted for the infant formula appropriations act, which would give the FDA access to funds to increase staff in charge of formula inspection before it is sent out to suppliers.

Armstrong said he voted for the final version of the PACT Act, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden earlier this year, and felt the funds given to the FDA would have gone to administrators, not where the money is truly needed.

He also challenged Mund on her ability to enter Congress as an independent.

“I think we have to be a little clearer about what independent means,” Armstrong said. “You don’t get to choose where you go in D.C., they have to invite you.”

He said independents have no mechanism for committee assignments without a party, leading to potential ineffectiveness.

Mund, who was also critical of Armstrong’s support for former President Donald Trump if he runs in 2024, said she won’t have a party leader and special interest groups tell her how to vote.

“I’m going to put North Dakota first,” she said.

Armstrong responded that he has never been told how to vote, and that he votes the way he thinks is right.

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Mark Haugen, the former Democratic-NPL Party candidate for the position, dropped out of the race at the beginning of September, saying he received pressure from Dem-NPL Party leaders “and other activists on the far left to step away,” after Mund entered the race. Haugen said that parts of the party were concerned about his pro-life position.

Abortion and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was the first topic of Tuesday’s debate.

The decision activated North Dakota’s trigger law, which would make most abortions illegal in the state. But the law has yet to go into effect after a request for a preliminary injunction made by the Red River Women’s Clinic, formerly the state’s only abortion clinic until a recent move to Moorhead, was granted again last week by a Burleigh County judge .

Armstrong said the high court’s decision was “exactly right,” adding he has been pro-life his entire life and the question isn’t about the legality or illegality of abortion, but about giving power to the states to do what they think is best.

“Personally I'm pro-life, but just more from a philosophical and policy standpoint, these decisions are best left at state level.”

Mund has previously said that the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is what made her decide to run for the House in the first place. Tuesday, she said the decision treats women “like second class citizens” and puts the “government in the place of (women’s) bedrooms” and their doctors appointments.

“Just because you are pro-choice does not mean that you are not pro-life,” Mund said. “We have to stop that narrative. This is a women’s health care issue.”

The candidates at least partially agreed on Biden’s decision to forgive up to $20,000 in student loans.

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Armstrong feels the $420 billion expense would not help the loan holders who need the most help and called it a “redistribution of wealth from working class blue collar Americans to pay for Ivy League education for people who aren’t doing it.”

“I see it as a Band-Aid to the true issue,” Mund said, adding she believes Congress should consider policies that focus on interest rates for student loans.

Election Day is Nov. 8, with absentee ballots available on Sept. 29 and early voting held the week prior.

For more information on your local races check out Forum Communications' voter guide , which was done in collaboration with the League of Women Voters of Minnesota and of North Dakota.

Sydney Mook has been the managing editor at the Herald since April 2021. In her role she edits and assigns stories and helps reporters develop their work for readers.

Mook has been with the Herald since May 2018 and was first hired as the Herald's higher education reporter where she covered UND and other happenings in state higher education. She was later promoted to community editor in 2019.


For story pitches contact her at smook@gfherald.com or call her at 701-780-1134.
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