Three-way race for U.S. House
Armstrong faces challenges from Raknerud, Peterson
Republican Congressman Kelly Armstrong is asking North Dakota voters for another two years in Washington, D.C. Democratic-NPL candidate Zach Raknerud of Minot and Libertarian candidate Steven Peterson of Fargo are looking to unseat him in the Nov. 3 election.
“I have worked every day to be North Dakota’s voice in Washington, not Washington’s voice in North Dakota,” Armstrong says on his website at armstrongnd.com. “With strong leadership from President Trump, we have seen the true power of the American people, we have watched our economy thrive, our people take home more money in their paychecks, and our families have a greater outlook on life.”
Armstrong, who turns 44 this month, is a Dickinson native who attended law school at the University of North Dakota, graduating in 2003. He has practiced law in Grand Forks and Dickinson and was a recipient of the North Dakota Bar Association’s Community Service Award for his volunteer activities.
In 2011, he joined his family’s energy business, Armstrong Corp., where he serves as vice president. He was elected to the North Dakota Senate in 2012 and was elected state chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party in 2015.
One of Armstrong’s top priorities is reducing the size of government.
“The federal government has bloated to an unsustainable level. Even now Washington bureaucrats continue to pump out regulation that stifles business, infringes on our states’ rights, and costs our taxpayers dearly,” he says on his website. His name on the REINS Act in the House, which would require federal agencies to submit major regulations to Congress for approval.
As a pro-life Congressman, he co-sponsored bills to ban abortion after 20 weeks, affirm an unborn child’s right to life and require a healthcare provider to care for any child who exhibits signs of life after an abortion procedure.
His priorities also include upholding gun rights; developing a plan of attack against the opioid crisis and other addictions, including funding for treatment; securing the nation’s borders, including building a southern border wall; and looking out for the state’s agricultural industry.
Raknerud, 26, grew up in Grand Forks and Northwood, graduating from the University of North Dakota in 2016 with a degree in communication. He began working in retail in college and currently works in retail management.
Raknerud said a major difference between his approach to representing the state and the incumbent’s approach is that he will not be subservient to a political party.
“The policy vision that I’m bringing forward is not the mainstream in either party’s establishment. I would be there to hold the Biden Administration accountable; I would be there to hold the Trump Administration accountable, because I don’t feel that either side has really made substantial economic investments in our people, especially at the time of crises that we face right now,” Raknerud said.
He said he has been disappointed in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We should have instituted some kind of either universal basic income for the duration of the crisis or some kind of a wage guarantee, but instead we had basically just a one time $1,200 dollar stimulus for people, and a paycheck protection program that, while it had good intentions and it did good things for some businesses, it was really a means tested, bureaucratic mess that allowed those who had the most connections to be able to access those funds,” he said. “They weren’t receptive to the needs of everyday people, and now as a result, we have an estimated 21% of North Dakotans who are late on their rent. It really paints a picture of a lot of economic dire straits out there today.”
He said if he is successful on Nov. 3, his election would ignite a realization across the country that a young working-class person, if advocating for the right investments in people, can win.
He would like to change what he calls a reverse funnel economy that has been concentrating wealth in the hands of a few.
“I’m advocating for a change in in governance that actually captures the excess of our economy and invests it in everybody, just like we used to do,” Raknerud said, citing the economic and taxation policies of the 1950s and 1960s, known as the golden age of economic expansion. High tax rates on the top end of income allowed for investments in the middle class, he said.
Among investments Raknerud champions is expanding Medicare for universal coverage.
“We are really hamstringing entrepreneurship in this country because people are stuck at jobs that they loathe because it provides them health care coverage and they can’t risk it,” he said. “If we had Medicare cover everybody as a baseline, it would really open up our economy in a big way, where folks could take the leap of entrepreneurship.”
Raising the taxed income cap for Social Security would generate more dollars to invest in paid family leave, paid sick leave and expand benefits. Raknerud said he supports a 2% wealth tax on fortunes exceeding $55 million to invest in universal access to child care through programs administered by states.
He wants to end the war on drugs, legalize marijuana and rehabilitate rather than incarcerate drug offenders. Taxes on legally sold marijuana could go to support drug treatment programs, he said.
For more information Raknerud’s positions, visit zachfornd.com.
As the Libertarian candidate, Peterson describes himself as a centralist Republican.
“We are at a period of time in history where we need to actually get smart about our vote and send people there to get stuff done,” he said of Congress.
“North Dakotans have been not given the true scope and measure of what’s going on out there from their federal representatives,” he said. “The general public has been given a pollyannic view. I think North Dakota voters really need to see what’s over the horizon so they can prepare their families for what’s about to hit the shore.”
Over the long-term, the country needs to be prepared for a technology evolution and the impact that will have on education and employment, he said. Like many blue-collar jobs, white-collar jobs will be impacted in the next round of technology. Both the employment sector and the educational delivery system need to be preparing for those changes, he said.
His priority in Congress would be to repeal measures that keep small businesses from accessing needed resources. He said the government provides grants for opening businesses overseas but North Dakota entrepreneurs can’t get the same assistance to create jobs in the state.
“There’s a lot of things that I want to repeal or change because it doesn’t really help the people on the ground,” he said.
He favors decriminalizing drug offenses and treating those involved as health emergencies.
“We have medical emergencies in this state, and COVID is just one of them,” he said.
He calls the federal government’s COVID-19 response “under-whelming” due to Congress’ failure to heed warnings and then inadequately responding to the resulting pandemic.
He has been disturbed by North Dakotans facing eviction, lacking food or unable to receive the supports that could keep them from drug abuse relapse.
Peterson founded Raven Rising LLC in 2015, a international sourcing company in the import and export sector. He attended North Dakota State University and Western State College in Gunnison, Colo. He has a criminal justice background, working as a bail bondsman and private detective and for two decades as a bounty hunter. He also has worked with the U.S. government as a contractor.
During the pandemic, he has worked in locating and bringing personal protection equipment into the state and in connecting educators and technology companies.
More information about Peterson can be found on Facebook at Steven Peterson for United States House of Representatives.