Cara Mund’s House pitch rides on abortion, outsider appeal

BISMARCK (AP) — When Cara Mund was competing to become Miss North Dakota, a key part of her platform was increasing the number of women elected to political office. Later, after she became the state’s first Miss America winner, she traveled the country to encourage women to use their voice to make an impact.

Fresh off Harvard Law School, Mund is taking on the job of candidate herself, running for North Dakota’s U.S. House seat as an independent.

In doing so, Mund is gambling that her primary issue — support for abortion rights — along with her self-proclaimed outsider status and her celebrity can win over enough voters to unseat an incumbent tightly tied to the dominant oil industry in the reddest of states.

“I don’t think it’s impossible,” Mund said. “A lot of people are fed up.”

But Mund’s hopes of an upset have to contend with some tough realities. She’s raised about $20,000 since jumping into the race this summer, paltry compared to the $1.4 million GOP Rep. Kelly Armstrong banked in the cycle. She hasn’t yet gotten — and may not get — help from national abortion rights groups.

And Republicans are hard at work to portray her as a Democrat in all but name, a near-toxic label in much of the state.

Democrats handed Republicans fuel for the attack when their own candidate, Mark Haugen, folded soon after Mund’s entry. Haugen, who opposes abortion rights, cited pressure from his own party to get out. Longtime former Rep. Earl Pomeroy was among those who called Haugen, but he denied any pressure campaign; instead, Pomeroy said, Haugen was simply told he could not win.

Pomeroy and others said abortion rights stood to be a powerful issue for Mund. They pointed to a failed statewide ballot issue in 2014 that would have amended the state constitution to essentially end the procedure in the state, with more than 64% of voters rejecting it. The measure’s sponsor, a Republican state senator, also was unseated by a Democrat in a conservative Bismarck district.

“I am certainly not predicting a victory here, but it’s going be an interesting election with a clean contrast,” Pomeroy said. “I think it’s because women are internalizing (the abortion issue) as a personal threat.”


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