GRAND FORKS —North Dakota Republican Gov. Doug Burgum won reelection against Democratic-NPL challenger Shelley Lenz as voting closed on Tuesday, bringing an end to a race that was increasingly dominated by Burgum's handling of the coronavirus outbreak in the state.
State officials had tallied about 356,469 votes at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4, and Burgum had garnered 66% of the vote. He was heavily favored throughout the campaign. He claimed victory in an emailed statement to the media shortly before 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, appearing in a video alongside his wife, Kathryn.
“Together, with Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, we thank you for your support. We are grateful every day to serve the citizens of the state we love, and we're deeply honored to be re-elected to serve all the citizens of North Dakota for another four years,” Burgum said, recounting the state’s resiliency through oil price crashes, droughts and blizzards, and budget-balancing questions. "And now, together, we are thoughtfully and carefully navigating the uncharted waters of a global pandemic.”
The state’s viral outbreak will dominate the governor's agenda. The state has led the U.S. in its rate of new infections and sent shockwaves through the economy, drastically shifting North Dakota’s oil and agricultural mainstays. Those issues will be paramount when the Legislature meets in coming months to set future budgets.
The campaign pitted Lenz, a veterinarian from near Killdeer and Dickinson, against Burgum, the incumbent and former software executive-turned-politician. Though the race was not expected to be close, some observers have seen it as a chance to gauge the strength of Burgum’s hand in Bismarck.
Lenz expressed disappointment late Tuesday evening that the enthusiasm she sensed on the campaign trail didn’t result in more votes. Though she was optimistic the Democratic-NPL’s work would continue, she offered a sharp message for Burgum on his handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
“My message for Doug is that we'll hope he understands that we are suffering. There's a lot of pain, and (that) he'll stop making COVID political, period,” she said. “Start governing. He is expected to lead, now, and I hope he starts leading.”
Also on the ballot is Republican incumbent Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford and Lenz’s running mate, former legislator Ben Vig.
The governor’s term runs four years, and his total, two-year compensation for the current budget cycle is $274,112, with $89,798 worth in additional benefits. Burgum has previously sought to refuse or donate his salary, and is expected to continue doing so.
The lieutenant governor’s pay, over the same period, is budgeted at $213,202 with $76,992 in benefits.