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North Dakota governor films ads and moves toward GOP presidential run

Republican Doug Burgum is nearing a decision, according to two people familiar with his thinking

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) speaks at the state Capitol in Bismarck in 2020. (Mike McCleary/Bismarck Tribune/AP)
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North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is nearing a decision on a presidential run and is already filming television ads for his potential bid for the GOP nomination, according to two people familiar with his thinking.

The wealthy tech entrepreneur turned governor was first elected to his job in 2016, when he won a three-way race with nearly 77 percent of the vote. Allies of Burgum — who made a trip to Iowa in March to address Story County Republicans — point to the potential appeal of a governor with business experience who understands the ethos of the Great Plains and the Midwest.

The people familiar with Burgum’s thinking spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

Burgum has not established much of a national political footprint and would face a challenge building name recognition in a prospective GOP field with more well-known candidates. Already in the race is former president Donald Trump. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis plans to officially enter the race next week.

A North Dakota native who grew up in Arthur, a town of 300 people where his family ran a grain elevator business, Burgum ran for governor on a platform of fiscal conservatism, promising to curb “runaway spending” and restore the state’s economy, which was struggling because of low energy and farm commodity prices. His tagline in that race was “a new leader for a changing economy.”

In a recent interview with the editorial board of the Forum in Fargo, Burgum said there was a competitive advantage to “being underestimated all the time.”

He has also raised concern about the nation’s political polarization, arguing that 60 percent of Americans are a “silent majority” who are not being represented in the political debate.

“All the engagement right now is occurring on the edge,” Burgum told the Forum editorial board. “There’s definitely a yearning for some alternatives right now.”

At the same time, Burgum has embraced some staunchly conservative policies, including signing a near-total ban on abortion in his state this year. Burgum has also signed legislation that bans providing gender-affirming care to minors and a bill that bars public schools and government entities from requiring teachers and employees to use a transgender person’s pronouns.

In a recent appearance on the “Plain Talk With Rob Port” podcast, Burgum said he had not made a final decision about running and he did not rule out the possibility of running for governor again in 2024. CBS News was the first to report Thursday morning that Burgum was leaning toward jumping into the 2024 race.

While Burgum has both raised money from others and invested his own money in his previous campaigns, his personal wealth could help him build the campaign infrastructure needed to raise money to qualify for the Republican debate stage. The Washington Post has previously reported that candidates are expected to have 40,000 donors to participate in the debates, according to people familiar with the process.

Burgum was an entrepreneur before entering politics. While attending North Dakota State University, he started a chimney sweeping business — a part of his background that he has said intrigued officials at Stanford University when he was applying to get his MBA.

He returned to his home state and helped build Great Plains Software — mortgaging part of the farmland that his father had left him to invest $250,000 in the company. He led Great Plains Software until it was acquired by Microsoft for $1.1 billion in 2001, and he remained at Microsoft as senior vice president until 2007. At the time he stepped down to run for governor, Burgum was chairman of Atlassian, a software company based in Australia.

Burgum told Forbes in a 2017 interview that he was inspired to run for governor because he had been watching how technology was changing every job, company and industry: “The next frontiers are education, health care, transportation — and the government touches all of these things,” he said at the time. “Doesn’t it make sense to have an elected leader who gets it?”

2024 presidential candidates

Several major Republican candidates and three Democrats have officially declared they are running for their party’s 2024 presidential nomination, and plenty of others are making moves. We’re tracking 2024 presidential candidates here.

Republicans: Top contenders for the GOP 2024 nomination include former president Donald Trump, who announced in November, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Here is The Post’s ranking of the top 10 Republican presidential candidates for 2024.

Democrats: President Biden has officially announced he is running for reelection in 2024. Author Marianne Williamson and anti-vaccine advocate Robert Kennedy Jr., both long-shot candidates, are also seeking the Democratic nomination. Here is The Post’s ranking of the top 10 Democratic presidential candidates for 2024.