Declining oil revenues challenge next North Dakota governor

By James MacPherson, Associated Press

North Dakota has not had a Democratic governor in nearly a quarter-century, and voters in the reliably red state are expected to extend the streak Tuesday for four more years. The gubernatorial matchup has focused on qualifications to lead the socially conservative state amid declining oil and crop revenues.

 

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota has not had a Democratic governor in nearly a quarter-century, and voters in the reliably red state are expected to extend the streak Tuesday for four more years.

Republican Doug Burgum, a Fargo businessman and onetime Microsoft Corp. executive, is considered a shoo-in against Rolla Rep. Marvin Nelson, a longshot in a state that has not had a Democratic governor since 1992, when George Sinner left office.

Fargo businessman and Libertarian Party candidate Marty Riske also is on the ballot to succeed Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who is not seeking re-election.

The gubernatorial matchup has focused on qualifications to lead the socially conservative state amid declining oil and crop revenues.

Nelson has been highly critical of deep cuts to government agencies and a massive raid on the oil-rich state's savings to make up for a more than $1 billion budget shortfall due to a drop in oil drilling and depressed crude prices.

Burgum has stuck to themes of budget discipline, job creation and opposition to tax increases.

His toughest campaigning is behind him, after defeating North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem in June in the Republican primary for governor. The GOP battle between Burgum and Stenehjem featured a spirited and expensive debate about which candidate was better suited to revive the state economy that once was among the nation's most robust.

Burgum painted Stenehjem as part of an establishment that has done a poor job at managing money and has put the state's future in doubt. The Fargo multimillionaire's allegations raised the ire of most in the GOP's Republican-led Legislature, and he has spent much of the time leading up to the general election smoothing over lawmakers' ruffled feathers.

Burgum is known in North Dakota as the godfather of software for building Fargo's Great Plains Software into a billion-dollar business, which he later sold to Microsoft.

He has promised in television advertisements to refuse a salary and a state pension if he's elected to be North Dakota's governor, even though state law does not allow that and similar moves in the past have drawn criticism.

Burgum is the latest Republican to try to turn business experience into political success on the state level. Govs. Rick Snyder of Michigan and Bruce Rauner of Illinois took similar paths to office in recent years.

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