Other Views: Burgum’s path to governor full of potholes
FARGOA few observers of North Dakota politics suggest that Fargo businessman Doug Burgum's quest for governor might take a page from the winning playbook of Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. In 2012, Cramer bypassed his party's convention, which endorsed...
A few observers of North Dakota politics suggest that Fargo businessman Doug Burgum’s quest for governor might take a page from the winning playbook of Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. In 2012, Cramer bypassed his party’s convention, which endorsed Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk to run for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Rick Berg, who after one term in the House was running for the U.S. Senate. Cramer easily won the primary and went on to win election to the U.S. House over a weak Democratic candidate.
Burgum announced his candidacy Thursday in scripted events in Fargo and Bismarck. He said he wants to honor the process and seek the endorsement from the convention. If that doesn’t fly, he said he’d challenge the endorsed candidate in the June primary.
The unfolding Burgum scenario is nothing like the Cramer story.
First, Cramer was no newcomer to politics when he ran for the U.S. House. He’d run several statewide campaigns, served in several public offices and therefore enjoyed universal name recognition across the state. Knocking off the party’s endorsed candidate in the primary was a sure thing.
Burgum’s political experience was in student government at North Dakota State University. Name recognition? West of Casselton, few voters know him. And if as expected, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is the party’s choice, beating the attorney general in the primary will be no easy task for newcomer Burgum. Burgum knows he’s a political unknown, and he said Thursday he intends to go about the task of getting known between now and the April convention in Fargo.
Second, Cramer had nurtured a temperament that was perfect for politics: cheerful, confident, and willing to answer questions and debate issues anytime, anywhere and with anyone, including a sometimes unfriendly media.
Burgum will have to learn that issuing directives in the executive suite is not at all like parrying slings and arrows on the campaign trail. He will find he cannot manage every venue in which he will find himself.
Finally, on the social issues that matter to Republicans, Cramer has been consistent and uncompromising all his political life, having espoused positions that reflect his evangelical faith.
Burgum has been unfairly characterized as a “RINO” (Republican in name only) because of his enlightened and inclusive positions on social issues - positions that will not be embraced anytime soon by the North Dakota Republican Party.
Of course, Burgum likely will be running against Stenehjem, not Cramer. But a parallel between Cramer’s kissing off the endorsing convention in 2012 and Burgum’s similar blueprint in 2016 doesn’t hold together. Cramer’s savvy strategy worked because of his political history. Burgum hasn’t got a political history.
The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead’s Editorial Board formed this opinion.