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North Dakota's Rick Becker to run for US Senate as independent conservative

In April, state Rep. Rick Becker lost the Republican nomination to incumbent U.S. Sen. John Hoeven at North Dakota's GOP convention. After the convention vote, the founder of the North Dakota Legislature's ultraconservative Bastiat Caucus told Forum News Service the race might be the end of his political career.

State Rep. Rick Becker delivers a speech to delegates in support of his campaign for the U.S. Senate at the NDGOP's 2022 state convention in Bismarck, North Dakota, April 2, 2022.
State Rep. Rick Becker delivers a speech to delegates in support of his campaign for U.S. Senate at North Dakota's GOP convention in Bismarck on April 2, 2022.
Kyle Martin / The Forum
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BISMARCK — North Dakota Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, announced on Monday, Aug. 15, he will attempt to run for U.S. Senate as an independent conservative candidate.

Becker, a plastic surgeon, would need to gather 1,000 signatures by Sept. 6 to make the November ballot, where he would appear next to incumbent Republican Sen. John Hoeven and Democratic challenger Katrina Chirstiansen.

In April, Becker lost the Republican nomination to Hoeven at the GOP state convention. After the convention vote, the ultraconservative lawmaker told Forum News Service the race might be the end of his political career.

Becker said in a news release Monday he wanted to give North Dakota voters "a real choice" in the Senate race by offering himself up as "the alternative to the Washington D.C. status quo politicians."

“Voters should not be forced to choose between a big-spending Democrat and a big-spending Republican,” Becker said.

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Sen. John Hoeven delivers a speech to delegates at the NDGOP's 2022 state convention in Bismarck, North Dakota, on April 2, 2022.
Sen. John Hoeven delivers a speech to delegates at the North Dakota GOP's convention in Bismarck on April 2, 2022.
Kyle Martin / The Forum

If Becker gets on the ballot, his independent candidacy is likely to receive votes that would have gone to GOP nominee Hoeven, a moderate conservative in Washington. Becker said it was a difficult decision to go against Republican party norms, but he added that he puts "principle first, party second."

“I have spent the last 10 years helping make the party stronger by pushing it to stand by its stated conservative principles," Becker said. "I am not breaking with the party, rather I am continuing to hold it accountable.”

Becker said Hoeven is "ineligible to call himself a conservative or a Republican" after voting in favor of a $550 billion infrastructure package backed by Democratic President Joe Biden.

Hoeven said last year he voted for the bipartisan legislation because it provided billions of dollars for flood mitigation projects and carbon capture initiatives that could prove beneficial to North Dakotans.

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Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Katrina Christiansen speaks during the Democratic-NPL Party's state convention in Minot, North Dakota, on March 26, 2022.
Kyle Martin / The Forum

Christiansen told Forum News Service she was "in a really good mood" after Becker's announcement.

The Jamestown engineering professor said Becker's potential appearance on the ballot will force Hoeven to cater to more conservative voters who favor former President Donald Trump. That could give her an opening as the candidate "for people in the state who want democracy to thrive," she said.

Christiansen said Becker and Hoeven will split Republican votes, allowing her to emerge as an energetic "problem solver" with answers to rural North Dakotans' most pressing issues, like shortages of mental health services.

Jessica Lee, a campaign spokeswoman for Hoeven, said Becker's announcement "doesn’t change the way that we are going to run this campaign."

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"Senator Hoeven has always focused on doing the things that best serve North Dakota and our country," Lee said. "He has a strong record of cutting taxes, pushing back on federal overreach, working to secure our southern border, supporting our second amendment rights, as well as unwavering support for our military."

North Dakota Republican Party Chairman Perrie Schafer said in a statement, "It’s unfortunate that Rick Becker has decided to leave the Republican Party."

"Rick said he would respect the decision of Republican delegates and voters and now he is doing the exact opposite," Schafer said. "How can people count on him to do what he says he will do?”

After entering the North Dakota Legislature in 2013, Becker founded the Bastiat Caucus, an unofficial libertarian-leaning faction of the Republican Party that does not disclose its membership.

Becker ran for governor in 2016 against Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and eventual winner Doug Burgum. Becker dropped out of the race after the Republican state convention, where he placed second behind Stenehjem in a vote for the party's endorsement.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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