Staunch Trump ally Armstrong aims to tackle practical issues
FARGO (AP) — A freshman congressman from North Dakota who spent much of his first term defending President Donald Trump during impeachment hearings said Monday he wants to return to Washington and begin working on practical issues.
Republican Rep. Kelly Armstrong, the first lawmaker to be congratulated by Trump during his White House speech the day after he was acquitted by the Senate, formally announced his re-election bid in a 10-minute speech to supporters at a Fargo hotel. Armstrong predicted that voters will opt for Republican majorities in the House and Senate and give Trump another four years.
“The economy is thriving, people have more money in their paychecks and families have greater outlooks on life,” Armstrong said. “Many Democrats want to end all that and threaten what is really important to us in North Dakota.”
Zach Raknerud, of Minot, a retail manager who is seeking the Democratic nomination for House, said the economy is not booming for working families in the state.
“The soaring costs of healthcare, childcare, education and more are placing a tremendous burden on everyday North Dakotans,” Raknerud said in a statement. “I’m bringing a voice to these urgent issues and the people facing them as my opponent continues to make it clear he will be a rubber stamp for the establishment GOP.”
Armstrong, an attorney who was in the middle of the impeachment hearings as a member of the judiciary and oversight committees, developed a strong bond with Trump before the 2016 election. Armstrong was the Republican Party chairman in a state that gave Trump the delegates he needed to give him the nomination. Only one other state gave Trump a greater percentage of votes in the general election.
“He called my daughter and wished her a happy birthday on Halloween,” a smiling Armstrong told The Associated Press.
Even so, Armstrong said he’s not in Congress to do Trump’s bidding and said he would work with Democrats on prescription drug prices, immigration and criminal justice reform. He added that he doesn’t like parts of Trump’s budget that shortchanges crop insurance and essential air service.
“My relationship with the president doesn’t change the fact that if it’s not good for North Dakota, I won’t support it,” Armstrong said in an interview.
Alex Rohr, communications director for the state Democratic Party, scoffed at that notion.
“When had the chance to work across the aisle and back lower drug costs while saving taxpayers $450 billion, he voted no,” Rohr said. “He was lockstep in line with the trade war that throttled markets and hurt our ag economy. When he has a chance to stick his neck out and fight for North Dakota, he doesn’t take it.”
Armstrong received his loudest ovation among supporters when he told them he would not budge on his support for gun rights and his opposition to abortion and federal legislation that would stifle North Dakota industry like oil and agriculture.