BISMARCK — Doug Burgum has upended the race for governor in North Dakota by announcing he won’t seek a third term, leaving the field wide open for office seekers, including a possible bid from his lieutenant governor.
“Serving as governor and first lady of the great state of North Dakota has been one of the most incredible and rewarding experiences of our lives. Kathryn and I are eternally grateful to the citizens of North Dakota for twice giving us this opportunity to serve the state we love so much,” Burgum said in a statement issued Monday, Jan. 22.
Burgum was elected to serve as North Dakota’s 33rd governor in November 2016 and took office Dec. 15, 2016. He was reelected to a second term in November 2020.
In a press conference, Burgum said his decision not to run for reelection had nothing to do with praise he’s received from former President Donald Trump, who hinted he
if he regains the White House.
“It was a very difficult decision for us, a heartfelt decision,” Burgum said.
He called Trump’s comments “flattering,” adding, “But the two things are not connected at all.”
The governor promised he would be active in the more than 320 days remaining in his second term, including delivering a proposal for the 2025-27 budget.
“I’m going to do everything I can to serve the state of North Dakota,” Burgum said.
Among his accomplishments, Burgum cited his shift to what he called strategic budgeting, with a focus on outcomes and information technology upgrades to improve customer service.
The governor also cited “historic investments” in education, infrastructure and other priorities and guiding the state through drought, floods, the pandemic and the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Asked why he was not seeking another gubernatorial term, Burgum said, “It may seem trite and overly used, but part of it’s family.”
Once done serving as governor, he said tearfully he will have more time to spend with family. “I’m looking forward to that,” he said.
Burgum, a former software entrepreneur and real estate developer in Fargo, also sees a promising future in business if he doesn’t go on in politics.
“There’s gigantic opportunities in the private sector,” he said.
As he serves out his term, Burgum said he still will be involved in his signature initiatives, including his Main Street seminars, education innovation, tribal relations and addiction recovery work with the first lady.
“There’s never been a better time to live, work and raise a family in North Dakota. Our state is extremely well positioned for the future thanks to the efforts of everyone on Team ND to empower people, improve lives and inspire success,” Burgum said.
Although he downplayed any role he could have in a future Trump administration, Burgum did not bar a future in politics.
“No, I’m not ruling that out,” he said.
Rep. Kelly Armstrong previously expressed his interest in the governor’s seat, though he had not announced any intention to run as of Monday afternoon.
Armstrong issued a statement praising Burgum, but kept mum about any plans to run for governor.
“Pundits like to say North Dakota is fly over country, but that has never stopped Governor Doug Burgum from seeing the potential we have and pushing hard to achieve it,” Armstrong stated.
“He has always known there is an important place for us on the national stage,” he added. “Our state is better off because Governor Burgum stepped up to serve.”
If Armstrong decides to run for governor, North Dakota’s lone congressional seat would be open.
Already, House aspirants are lining up. Before Burgum’s announcement, Rick Becker, a former GOP state representative in Bismarck and the champion of a proposed ballot measure to
Tammy Miller, whom Burgum appointed lieutenant governor to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Brent Sanford, is considering a run for the governor’s seat.
“Lt. Gov. Miller is seriously considering a run for governor and will have a decision soon,” said Dawson Schefter, an adviser to Miller and Burgum.
Other potential GOP candidates for governor include Attorney General Drew Wrigley and former state Sen. Tom Campbell, who farms near Grafton and recently
and trying to do the same in his presidential run.
Wrigley said in a statement provided to Forum Communications Columnist Rob Port that his plans are to remain serving as attorney general.
“When I first announced my intention to run for a Attorney General in 2022, I was asked about this possibility,” he said. “I made clear that if elected attorney general, I intended to serve my entire four year term.”
Campbell said he will enter the gubernatorial race and will make an official announcement soon.
“I will be running for sure and officially announcing next week or Feb. 6,” he said in an email.
Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., praised Burgum’s authenticity and service in a statement released Monday.
“No one could ever say Doug Burgum isn’t his own person,” Cramer said. “He has served North Dakota very well. I’ve been honored to work with him these last several years, and I look forward to working with him a lot more.
“He has earned the right to take a short or long break or seek a promotion. Whatever it is, he will do it his way, and he will be successful at it. It will be for a cause bigger than himself,” Cramer said.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., also joined the chorus of Republicans praising Burgum.
“Doug Burgum is a tremendous representative of, and advocate for, North Dakota,” Hoeven said in a statement. “He’s undertaken many important initiatives to grow our communities and used the national stage to tell our state’s story.
“He has been a great partner in working to provide more opportunity and prosperity for all North Dakotans. That includes building upon our strong ag industry, expanding our role as an energy powerhouse and paving the way for our state’s dynamic tech sector,” Hoeven said.
After Burgum dropped out of the presidential race and gave his support to Trump, the former president said he would ask Burgum to be a “very important piece” of his administration if Trump regains the White House.
“You need controversy for traction sometimes, and this guy is the most solid guy,” Trump said. “There’s no controversy whatsoever. And he’s one of the best governors in our country, and I hope that I’m going to be able to call on him to be a piece of the administration, a very important piece of the administration.”
Burgum’s time away from the state to campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire during his presidential run, which he ended in December, has been noted.
“I’m sure he’s been killing himself driving back and forth, flying back and forth and being here for important stuff and trying to be on the campaign trail for important stuff. But you know, that’s a killer, physically,”
“I think he’s balanced that as best he could.”
Schafer added: “I don’t think that’s an issue, but you do hear it.”
Asked to cite his biggest challenges as governor, Burgum said he knew he would confront fiscal challenges because of plunging oil prices. When beginning his run for his first term, he did not expect to deal with the massive and violent Dakota Access Pipeline protests near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.
Now, the state has a $26 billion balance sheet, with its reserve funds brimming, Burgum said. He suggested he would continue pushing to eliminate the state income tax and would continue pressing for child care and housing support, both important for workforce recruitment and retention.
When Burgum gives his
it will be as a lame duck governor — a turn of events few might have predicted just days ago.