BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — An unusually large number of Republican races for legislative seats in North Dakota's primary on Tuesday may help lure voters for an election where turnout has typically been anemic.
Ninety-eight of the Legislature's 141 seats are on the ballot due in part to redistricting that was required due to population shifts shown by the 2020 federal census. The Republican nominating convention also failed to settle candidate questions, and about three dozen unendorsed GOP candidates each gathered the required 300 signatures needed and filed petitions to get on the June 14 ballot. Some GOP legislative seats have as many as five candidates.
Secretary of State Al Jaeger said it was rare for such a high number of unendorsed candidates to duel for seats. He did not know if it was a record.
GOP Gov. Doug Burgum continues to reach deep into his own pockets seeking to elect legislators more obliging to his wishes. The wealthy former software executive gave more than $1.2 million ahead of the June 14 primary to a political action committee that is targeting eight legislative districts to defeat certain lawmakers and candidates from the far right wing his party known as the Bastiat Caucus.
Burgum gave more than $3 million to the PAC in the 2020 primary with mixed results. The second-term governor and his PAC say the contributions are an exercise in free speech and an investment in North Dakota. Critics say Burgum’s unprecedented spending crosses the separation-of-powers line.
U.S. Sen. John Hoeven is seen as a shoo-in for a third term in the Republican primary over Riley Kuntz, a political newcomer and oil field worker. Hoeven raised more than $3.2 million leading up to the primary, Federal Election Commission filings show. Kuntz, who works on a drill rig in western North Dakota and gathered the needed signatures to challenge Hoeven, raised less than $5,000.
Hoeven was endorsed by Republicans at the party convention in April, narrowly defeating state Rep. Rick Becker, of Bismarck.
Democrats endorsed Katrina Christiansen, a University of Jamestown engineering professor, for the seat. She's challenged in the primary by Michael Steele, a Fargo art and antiques dealer, who is largely unknown even by Democratic Party officials.
North Dakota has no voter registration. State Census Office Manager Kevin Iverson estimates almost 590,000 people are eligible to vote in Tuesday’s election.
Turnout in June primaries historically is around 25%.
This story was first published June 13, 2022. It was updated June 14, 2022, to correct the spelling of Katrina Christiansen’s last name.