BISMARCK — Republicans secured wins in a trio of down-ballot North Dakota races on Election Day and held a runaway lead in a fourth contest.
With over 340,00 votes counted by Wednesday morning, Nov. 4, Republican Thomas Beadle declared victory in the state treasurer's race, with 66% of the vote to Democrat Mark Haugen's 34%, according to incomplete results. In the race for state auditor, Republican incumbent Josh Gallion declared a win with 68% of the vote to Democrat Patrick Hart's 32%.
Meanwhile, Jon Godfread secured an overwhelming majority of votes in the insurance commissioner's race, where he was unopposed, and Republican Brian Kroshus held a commanding 68% of the vote in the Public Service Commission race, over his Democratic challenger Casey Buchmann's 32%.
"I'm excited, I'm humbled, I'm very grateful," said Beadle, a Republican legislator and Fargo businessman. Earlier this year, Beadle defeated a primary opponent that drew a presidential endorsement, and political observers eyed his general election contest as perhaps the most competitive of the statewide races. Still, Beadle said he wasn't surprised by his 30-point margin on Tuesday night, noting enthusiastic support.
"We've been confident this whole time," he said.
Beadle and Haugen were vying to succeed longtime treasurer Kelly Schmidt and gain a voice on several important boards, including the State Investment Board and Land Board.
Both treasury candidates named transparency and government accountability as key priorities. But they differed on how to deal with the millions in overdue royalties owed to the state by prominent oil companies. Beadle cautioned against "punitive action" against oil producers, while Haugen argued companies should be made to pay up immediately.
Haugen also criticized Beadle's relationship with Republican Gov. Doug Burgum as overly cozy, pledging to bring a financial and political independence to the treasurer's office. And while Beadle argued for his own autonomy in office, he said that his ties to the governor would be an asset in office.
The race for state auditor also drew unusual intrigue in the campaign cycle before the commanding Republican win on Tuesday. Hart, the owner of a small Bismarck construction business, brought a competing audit philosophy to the table, arguing that Gallion's bullish audits of members in his own party amounted to chasing "splashy headlines."
Speaking to the wide Republican margins on Tuesday night, Hart called the results "a normal election" in North Dakota and expressed hope for less polarization over the next four years.
Readers can reach reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at firstname.lastname@example.org.