North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum not interested in a US Senate seat

The newly reelected Republican governor said he is content in his current gig and has never wanted a legislative job. His statement of intent may mean that Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer are safe in their current seats, but it could also leave an opening for rising stars on the national political stage.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. Forum file photo

BISMARCK — Gov. Doug Burgum hasn't been sworn in yet for his second term, but the North Dakota Republican said he has no interest in leveraging his current office for any legislative jobs such as one in the U.S. Senate.

While some political observers speculated the governor and former tech executive could one day jump for a coveted Senate seat as Sen. John Hoeven did in 2010, Burgum's dismissal of the idea leaves some question marks about the future of the two Congressional offices over the next decade.

"I don't have any political aspirations other than being governor of North Dakota," Burgum said in a meeting with Forum editors and reporters on Thursday, Dec. 3. "I've never viewed this as a stepping stone to any place else. ... I have never been interested in a legislative job because this is an operations role. (Lt. Gov.) Brent (Sanford) and I are both business guys."

The governor's spokesman, Mike Nowatzki, confirmed to The Forum on Friday that Burgum is not interested in pursuing positions in the U.S. Senate down the line. The statement of intent from Burgum may mean Hoeven and Sen. Kevin Cramer are safe in their current spots, but it could also leave an opening for rising stars on the national political stage.

Both senators are well-liked by North Dakotans and relatively young, but their own political calculations could change depending on the moves of other Republicans over the next few years.


A spokesperson for Hoeven's campaign said the senior senator does intend to run for reelection when his second term ends in 2022. Mike Jacobs, a Grand Forks Herald columnist and longtime North Dakota political observer, said Hoeven could likely hold his Senate seat for life if he wanted to.

But Cramer's 2024 bid could bring more intrigue. Unlike Hoeven, Jacobs argued that Cramer is vulnerable to a primary challenge, one legislative arena where Burgum could get involved. Given the right Republican opponent, Jacobs speculated, the governor might throw his weight against Cramer's reelection.

Cramer's affiliation with the far right-wing of the North Dakota Republican Party likely makes Burgum nervous, Jacobs said. The junior senator has close ties with the small but influential right-wing Bastiat Caucus of the North Dakota legislature, a faction that Jacobs suggested Burgum does not want elevated.

If the right Republican challenger comes along in 2024, "it would be very interesting to see where Burgum put his money," Jacobs said. "I can envision Doug Burgum being the agent of (Cramer's) downfall."

Rob Port, a conservative columnist for The Forum, was unsurprised about Burgum's dismissal of the Senate jobs and said he is less inclined to predict any turnover in the top North Dakota political offices for the foreseeable future.

"I don't see the political winds shifting that much in North Dakota," he said. Port guessed Burgum likely knows he "doesn't have the right temperament" for a legislative job and predicted the likeliest next step for the Republican governor would be a third term in 2024.

While Port acknowledged Cramer's outspoken tendencies put him at more risk of losing his Senate seat than Hoeven, he also argued both "probably can have those seats for as long as they want them."

In the event that North Dakota's political landscape sees a shake-up in the next few election cycles, Jacobs said he will be on the lookout for a few prominent Republican women to move into the spotlight.


Kirsten Baesler, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, could be well positioned for a bigger profile in a few years. Fargo Senator Shannon Roers Jones, "the most ambitious Republican legislator," would make for a formidable statewide candidate, according to Jacobs. If anyone is going to get Burgum's backing over Cramer in 2024, it could be her, Jacobs said.

In the meantime, Burgum said he only has eyes for his current gig. He didn't rule out running for a third term alongside his lieutenant governor when this one ends.

"I'm not a politician, but they tell me if I answer 'no,' then immediately I have four years of being a lame duck," he joked on Thursday in response to a question about his aspirations for another term. "So we should probably tell you that Brent and I want to do this for the rest of our lives. That's probably the right answer."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at

Cramer and Hoeven.jpg
Sen. Kevin Cramer, left, and Sen. John Hoeven. Forum News Service file photos

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