Burgum first ND governor to seek U.S. presidency

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum announced this week his candidacy for U.S. president.

You might wonder if any other North Dakota governor has run for president.

To find out more we turned to Rick Collin, a N.D. expert on presidents and N.D. political leaders. Collin, of Bismarck, has taught many classes on the American presidency at the University of Mary, Bismarck State College and for Humanities North Dakota.

No other N.D. governor has run for the presidency. A N.D. congressman was the first N.D. office holder to run for president more than 80 years ago, according to Collin.

“Longtime N.D. Congressman William Lemke did run for president on a third-party ticket as the candidate of the Union Party in 1936. He only polled about 900,000 votes, or just under 2 percent nationally. However, he did manage to poll better than the Republican presidential nominee, Gov. Alf Landon of Kansas, in six N.D. counties. That was the year that FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) buried Landon in a landslide, winning 61 percent of the vote to Landon’s 37 percent, and carrying 46 of the then 48 states, with an electoral vote count of 523 to Landon’s 8 (He only carried Vermont and Maine),” said Collin.

He added, “Another North Dakota-born candidate who ran for president was Gary Johnson, who ran in 2012 and 2016 as the Libertarian Party candidate. He received 1 percent of the national vote in ’12 and 3.3 percent in ’16.” Johnson was born in Minot and was governor of New Mexico from 1995-2003.

In the past 50 years, one former N.D. governor and a N.D. U.S. congressman were named to cabinet positions. Another former N.D. governor was considered for a cabinet position.

Collin said former N.D. Congressman Tom Kleppe was named Secretary of the Interior by President Ford and served from 1975-77, and former N.D. Gov. Ed Schafer served as George W. Bush’s agriculture secretary from 2008-09.

Former Gov. George Sinner was seriously considered for a cabinet post, Secretary of Agriculture, by Bill Clinton after he was elected president in 1992 but nothing came of it.

Collin also told us Burgum’s certainly not the first governor running for president from a small state to be considered a very long shot. He said two presidents elected from small states who were very dark horses when they announced and relatively unknown were Jimmy Carter and Clinton. This would have been in the past 50 years or so.

He said Carter was from the small town of Plains, Georgia, when he announced his candidacy in December 1974. “The population of Plains was 230 when Carter announced,” Collin said.

He said Clinton was from Hope, Arkansas, when he announced his candidacy in October 1991. “The population of Hope was 9,600 when Clinton announced,” Collin said.

“The population of Burgum’s hometown of Arthur, N.D., is 328,” he said.

He also noted George McGovern, from South Dakota, won the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972 and lost to Nixon that year.

Now we will join others in watching the developments as Gov. Doug Burgum joins this group of North Dakotans seeking a higher office in this nation.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today