Election 2016 Featured News

GOP gubernatorial candidate talks local powers, innovation with Bowman crowd (with video)

Doug Burgum wants your vote to become the “CEO of North Dakota.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Burgum shares an emotional moment as he speaks about his father’s death during Tuesday’s meet and greet with the candidate in Bowman. (Pioneer Photo by Bryce Martin)
Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Burgum shares an emotional moment as he speaks about his father’s death during Tuesday’s meet and greet with the candidate in Bowman. (Pioneer Photo by Bryce Martin)

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By BRYCE MARTIN
Pioneer Editor | bmartin@countrymedia.net

Doug Burgum wants your vote to become the “CEO of North Dakota.”

The entrepreneur and former Microsoft Corp. executive brought his gubernatorial campaign to Bowman on Tuesday, meeting and greeting a full room at Bowman Lodge and Convention Center.

TWO CANDIDATES MINGLE — Republican candidate for North Dakota governor, Doug Burgum shares a friendly chat with Bowman Commission President Lyn James during Tuesday’s meet and greet with the candidate. He later publicly endorsed James in her run to maintain her seat on the commission. (Pioneer Photo by Bryce Martin)
TWO CANDIDATES MINGLE — Republican candidate for North Dakota governor, Doug Burgum shares a friendly chat with Bowman Commission President Lyn James during Tuesday’s meet and greet with the candidate. He later publicly endorsed James in her run to maintain her seat on the commission. (Pioneer Photo by Bryce Martin)

With his running mate, Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford, standing nearby, Burgum introduced himself to the Bowman crowd as a businessman who knows how to make the tough decisions.

Throughout his prosperous career, which made him one of the wealthiest residents of the state, Burgum said he had learned how to solve problems working with very little resources.

That is what he believes he can achieve as governor: working to better the state as its economy tanks because of the slump in oil.

“I know how to run a large-scale businesses like North Dakota,” he told the crowd.

The state’s economic and overall health would be served better if led by a skilled businessperson, he said.

But it’s also about giving back local control.

Sanford said he joined the ticket because of Burgum’s belief that the local governments know best how to govern their respective communities. In Sanford’s case it rings true since his city experienced one of the largest growth spurts in the state’s history.

“We had no infrastructure,” Sanford said of Watford City during the height of the Bakken oil boom.

It was because he would help contest Bismarck’s sole control over the mounting oil taxes that the city’s growth eventually became more manageable.

He helped his region stabilize because he made his voice heard in the state legislature. Now he wants to help Burgum ensure that that continues, but for all North Dakota communities.

“Doug’s the man for the job,” he said.

While Burgum took third place at the state’s GOP convention last month, when current Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem clinched the nomination, he didn’t count himself out. And neither did his large amount of supporters.

Burgum is now in a tight race with Stenehjem — per his own polling numbers — to emerge as the Republican candidate for governor in this year’s primary election. If he receives the majority of votes, he would face-off against the presumed Democratic candidate, Marvin Nelson, in November.

In March, an independent poll placed him far behind the AG, but Burgum recently released a campaign ad that boasted he was closing the gap; nearly a dead heat between both GOP candidates.

Though much of his career has been focused on business, Burgum, who was raised in Arthur, a small Cass County town, said he still maintains roots in agriculture, an integral industry to southwest North Dakota.

He tearfully paid tribute to a Slope County man who was in the audience that had helped him after his father passed away.

“I had a big hole in my life and Robert Hanson helped fill that hole for me,” he said, to which he received a large applause.

Burgum said he spent a while with Hanson at his Logging Camp Ranch during branding season. “He said, ‘If you keep at it, you might be an OK hand,’” Burgum said with a laugh. He continued to come back for the next several years, forming a meaningful bond with Hanson.

Since then, Burgum purchased a piece of land in that area and has run cattle, lending to his already large amount of experience with agriculture.

“When something was broken at home, we fixed it. If you needed help, you talked to the neighbor, you didn’t go to Bismarck or Washington, D.C., for help,” he said as he referred to the values of community in western North Dakota. “That’s how I was raised.”

The governor hopeful, whose family also ran a grain elevator business and farm, said he believes in “value ag” but wants to diversify the state’s economy so that it’s no longer driven solely based upon commodities. His focus will be to create jobs that don’t only arrive when prices go up and then disappear when they go down. That’s a key reason Fargo’s economy has been able to unhinge itself from the price of oil and wheat, he said.

His other priorities as governor would be to cut runaway spending — eliminate the spending of “career politicians that stuck North Dakota with a $1.1 billion deficit — and reform the property tax system, helping to shrink government and stop tax hikes.

His first act as governor would be to cut his own salary. That’s one step towards helping the state thrive.

As CEO of Great Plains Technologies, which he later sold to Microsoft, Burgum said he was able to double annual profit in only seven years. And that was achieved while his products were sold at decreasing prices.

“It’s not bravado,” he said. Instead, he used the example to signal that he could steer the sinking ship that is North Dakota towards a prosperous future once again.

GAMES