Doug Burgum joins race for the White House

June 7, 2023

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a former software entrepreneur who enacted a slate of laws this year advancing conservative policies on culture war issues, highlighted his small-town roots and business experience as he announced his candidacy for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination on Wednesday.

Burgum, 66, joins a long list of contenders hoping to dent former President Donald Trump’s early lead in the race. The governor of the nation’s fourth-least populous state made the announcement in the The Wall Street Journal and kicked off his campaign Wednesday in the city of Fargo, where he lives and which is near the tiny farm town of Arthur where he grew up.

“It shouldn’t be a surprise that small-town values have guided me my entire life,” Burgum told the crowd. “And frankly, big cities could use more ideas and more values from small towns right now.”

Burgum spoke under a sign declaring him “A new leader for a changing economy,” echoing a slogan he first used as his successful 2016 gubernatorial campaign. Reelected in 2020, he’s eligible to run for a third time in 2024.

In 1983, he founded Great Plains Software, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2011, and Burgum stayed on as a Microsoft vice president until 2007.

His first presidential campaign event, held at a former church in downtown Fargo, attended by many prominent North Dakota Republicans, including two former governors and top state lawmakers. Many posed for pictures in front of the red, white and blue “Doug Burgum for America” sign above the stage.

Known to few outside North Dakota, Burgum faces an immense challenge in a field dominated by Trump and the better-known governor in the race, Ron DeSantis of Florida.

As evidence of Burgum’s long odds, he isn’t even the most notable candidate to announce a presidential campaign on Wednesday. Four hundred miles to the south, former Vice President Mike Pence was launching his White House bid in Iowa, taking on the president he served loyally for four years.

Burgum plans to visit early voting states right away. He will campaign Thursday and Friday in Iowa, home of the first-in-the-nation Republican caucuses, and Saturday and Sunday in New Hampshire, which hosts the first GOP primary.

In a video previewing his announcement, Burgum portrayed himself as a common-sense, rural state conservative, distinctly experienced in energy policy and far removed from the bitter war of words between Trump and DeSantis as the 2024 GOP campaign heats up.

“Anger, yelling, infighting, that’s not going to cut it anymore,” Burgum said in the video, which features breathtaking vistas from across North Dakota. “Let’s get things done. In North Dakota, we listen with respect, and we talk things out. That’s how we can get America back on track.”

The new laws he signed this year include banning abortion with few exceptions up to six weeks’ gestation, before most women know they are pregnant. Other laws prohibit schools and government agencies from requiring their employees to refer to transgender people by the pronouns they use, as well as barring transgender girls and women from competing in women’s sports.

His preview video also touched subtly on his opposition to “woke” ideology, a catch-all term that conservatives use derogatorily to refer to policies or ideas that acknowledge the existence of social injustice and racial inequality.

“I grew up in a tiny town in North Dakota,” Burgum said. “Woke was what you did at 5 a.m. to start the day.”

Burgum enters the race with a more advanced background in energy policy than most of the Republican field in light of North Dakota’s decadelong petroleum industry boom, and his administration’s effort to capture carbon dioxide from around the country.

“Instead of shutting down American oil and gas, we should unleash energy production,” he said in the video, “and start selling energy to our allies, instead of buying it from our enemies.”

In addition to Trump, DeSantis and Pence, Burgum will be facing off against former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, anti-woke activist Vivek Ramaswamy, conservative talk radio host Larry Elder and businessman Perry Johnson.

The GOP nominee is expected to face Democratic President Joe Biden in November 2024.