The first GOP primary debate featured eight candidates, including two-term North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. The former computer software entrepreneur entered with the lowest name recognition and least media attention.
Not much has changed since the Aug. 23 debate hosted by Fox News. He currently is attracting 2% support in Iowa caucus polling conducted this week by Iowa State University/Civiqs.
Undeterred by Burgum’s low standing, a super PAC is launching a huge national ad campaign in the hope of qualifying him for the second GOP debate set for Sept. 27 on Fox Business Network.
However, Burgum is no stranger to being an underdog. In the 2016 governor’s race, the billionaire faced off against Wayne Stenehjem, the chosen North Dakota Republican Party candidate; the previous governor, Jack Dalrymple, and U.S. Sen. John Hoeven. Safe to say that Burgum’s victory was a major upset, something he hopes to pull off again.
Projects Himself as a Commonsense Conservative
Burgum, who never held an elected position before the governorship, is beloved by his home state.
The 67-year-old was raised in Arther, North Dakota, and he emphasized his rural upbringing and work ethic in his first gubernatorial campaign. At times, he portrays himself as the poster child for small-town America.
Burgum made it big after graduating with a B.A. from North Dakota University and a master’s in business from Stanford University. He mortgaged his inherited farmland and invested in a small startup, Great Plains Software, in 1983. A year later, he became the company’s president, growing it into a successful venture that went public in 1997.
Four years later, he sold Great Plains to Microsoft for $1.1 billion, remaining as a senior vice president until 2007. Burgum has also founded Kilbourne Group, a real estate development firm that focused on revitalizing downtowns, and Arther Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in software companies. Burgum stresses his background in business and his expertise on the subject.
His deep pockets allowed him to significantly outspend his 2016 competitors, giving him a leg up — and getting him into hot water. Controversy arose when Burgum provided $20 gift cards — coined as “Biden Economic Relief” cards — to 50,000 people who donated $1 to his campaign.
Culture Wars Politics
As governor, a position with an anti-establishment campaign, he has signed eight anti-transgender laws, one of the strictest abortion plans in the country, and made it a goal to get North Dakota to carbon neutrality by 2030.
The laws he has signed include restricting transition care to minors, prohibiting most sex changes on birth certificates, restricting the use of bathrooms and showers in state facilities, and prohibiting transgender women’s participation in sports.
The governor shot down a bill requiring school personnel to misgender transgender students, opting for a bill allowing misgendering and requiring schools to inform parents about “transgender status”. Burgum also signed bills defining sex, male, and female. These are more bills than almost any other state.
Abortion Ban After Six Weeks
He signed one of the country’s strictest abortion bans in April 2023. The state allows exceptions for abortion for rape or incest only within the first six weeks of pregnancy. The only other exception is for pregnancies that pose “death or serious health risk.” The state previously had allowed abortions through the first 22 weeks.
Burgum says decisions on abortion rest with the states and he would not support a federal ban.
Burgum’s Big Focus on Energy
Burgum says that the United States should continue relying on fossil fuels. For the record, North Dakota is one of the nation’s largest oil and coal producers. Burgum states that the nation must sell this energy to friends and allies and stop buying it from adversaries. Meanwhile, he calls for investment in carbon capture, and utilizing modern technology.
The governor has also focused on the economy, stating that this “needs to be the absolute top priority.” He favors innovation, decries regulation, and calls for cuts in federal taxes.
He had achieved success with similar plans in his home state, where he cut taxes, controlled inflation, and lowered the cost of living.
On the presidential trail, however, Burgum never offers a specific plan to achieve these goals for the country as a whole.
In addition, he believes strengthening the economy will help the U.S. win its cold war with China.
Burgum connects China with Russia, voicing his support for military support in Ukraine.
“Russia cannot have a win coming out of this, because if it’s a win for them, it’s a win for China,” he says.
Burgum injured his Achilles tendon playing pickup basketball ahead of the first debate. Ever the politician, he fundraised off his injury with T-shirts.