MINOT, N.D - The North Dakota Petroleum Council doesn't formally endorse governor candidates, but the industry group seems enthusiastic about Republican Doug Burgum.
About 450 oil industry representatives heard from both Burgum and Democratic opponent Marvin Nelson during the council's annual meeting in Minot this week. The winner of the governor's race will lead the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which regulates the oil industry.
Blu Hulsey, an official with Continental Resources, emphasized Burgum's experience as a Microsoft executive when introducing him to the audience.
"He's absolutely going to be a great governor," said Hulsey, vice president of government relations and regulatory affairs. "He's the Republican primary candidate. We're sure he's got a great chance of bringing that to the finish line."
Burgum expressed his appreciation for the oil industry and said the industry's contributions are about more than North Dakota and state tax revenues.
"It's going to be very important long term for the United States as a leader in the world to have energy independence, and this is one of the things that you guys are helping deliver," he said.
Burgum said he thinks the role of government is to allow businesses to deploy capital in ways that meet the objectives that everyone wants, including protecting the environment.
"I think that North Dakota can be a shining star in terms of how we collaborate between business and government to achieve our full potential," Burgum said.
Nelson, who has worked with oil and gas issues as a state legislator and agricultural consultant, drew comparisons between the federal regulations facing the oil industry and federal regulations that affected one of his family's former businesses, raising mink for fur.
As governor, Nelson said he would have someone in his office to monitor federal regulations that affect North Dakota.
"We're getting surprises after the fact because there's really no one whose job it is on the state level to keep track of these federal regulations," he said.
Nelson said he's disappointed with how the state has handled radioactive waste standards and said the public doesn't believe that the state has the ability to regulate the waste, which is a byproduct of oil production.
"The public doesn't trust the state government and that's a big problem for us and for your industry," he said.
During the primary, the oil industry supported Burgum's opponent, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, with financial contributions.
Burgum, who also met privately this week with the petroleum council's board, appealed to the oil industry members with his passion for business, said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.
"He struck a chord with our board members and our attendees in terms of understanding capitalization and how capital markets work," Ness said.
Ness said he also liked Nelson's comments related to the overreach of federal regulations.
Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources, reminded oil industry representatives that Election Day will not only decide a new president, but also who will lead the Industrial Commission and serve on the North Dakota Legislature.
"Nov. 8 is an enormous day in terms of our future at the Industrial Commission and your future as an industry," Helms said.
Libertarian candidate Marty Riske is also running for governor but was not on the meeting agenda.