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Hoeven narrowly beats Becker for North Dakota GOP Senate endorsement

Sen. John Hoeven, who has held the office for more than a decade, won 1,224 delegate votes to challenger Rick Becker’s 1,037 at the Bismarck Event Center on Saturday, April 2.

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Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., speaks to delegates at the North Dakota Republican Party state convention on Saturday, April 2, 2022.
Kyle Martin / The Forum
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BISMARCK — At the most well-attended North Dakota Republican convention on record, party delegates endorsed incumbent Sen. John Hoeven over challenger Rick Becker in a hard-fought race for U.S. Senate.

Hoeven, who has held the office for more than a decade, won 1,224 delegate votes to Becker’s 1,037 at the Bismarck Event Center on Saturday, April 2.

Becker conceded the race to Hoeven and said he will not continue on to the June primary election.

If Hoeven wins the GOP primary as expected, it's likely he'll face endorsed Democratic-NPL candidate Katrina Christiansen in November. Christiansen, an engineering professor at the University of Jamestown, said last week that Hoeven "will hear my footsteps."

Intended to spotlight unity within the state’s preeminent political party, the GOP convention was underscored by the division between historically powerful moderate Republicans and increasingly assertive ultra-conservatives.

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The race between Hoeven and Becker has served as a political proxy war between the two sides.

Hoeven, a former governor and banker, is often viewed as a moderate Republican among his colleagues in Washington.

With the endorsement of former President Donald Trump in hand, Hoeven portrayed himself Saturday as an effective legislator who sticks up for conservative values and puts the fight to Democratic President Joe Biden’s agenda.

Sen. Kevin Cramer backed his Senate colleague, telling the crowd that Hoeven works behind the scenes to pass legislation that improves the lives of North Dakotans rather than basing his political activity on what will get him the most attention and media coverage.

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U.S. Senate candidate Rick Becker, a Bismarck state representative, speaks to delegates at the North Dakota Republican state convention on Saturday, April 2, 2022.
Kyle Martin / The Forum

Becker, a Bismarck plastic surgeon, is the founder of the Bastiat Caucus, an unofficial libertarian-leaning faction of Republican state lawmakers that often clashes with fellow party members.

The state representative billed himself as a true Republican who sticks to the party platform and painted Hoeven as a frivolous spender of public money who lacks passion for conservative issues.

“The choice is (to) keep bringing home the bacon or save America," Becker said. "Let's save America."

After losing the endorsement, Becker told Forum News Service the run for Senate might be his last political endeavor, but he'll "never say never." Becker said his candidacy helped energize many Republicans who have recently ramped up their conservative activism, and he hopes they will remain politically engaged.

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During the campaign, Becker stopped appearing on a nightly BEK TV talk show that bore his name, but the state lawmaker said he may now resume his televised punditry.

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A delegate at the North Dakota Republican Party state convention holds up a sign advocating against Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., at the Bismarck Event Center on Saturday, April 2, 2022.
Kyle Martin / The Forum

Delegates also endorsed a series of statewide candidates who were unopposed at the convention, including Kelly Armstrong for U.S. House of Representatives, Drew Wrigley for attorney general, Brian Kroshus for tax commissioner, Doug Goehring for agriculture commissioner, Michael Howe for secretary of state, and Julie Fedorchak and Sheri Haugen-Hoffart for Public Service Commission.

All are incumbents except Howe, a Casselton state representative, though Wrigley, Kroshus and Haugen-Hoffart were recently appointed by Republican Gov. Doug Burgum to fill vacancies.

Last week, North Dakota Democrats endorsed candidates for six of the eight statewide races on the 2022 ballot, including Christiansen, Mark Haugen for U.S. House, Tim Lamb for attorney general, Fintan Dooley for agriculture commissioner and Trygve Hammer and Melanie Moniz for Public Service Commission. The minority party currently has no declared candidates for secretary of state or tax commissioner.

Republicans hold every statewide and congressional office and 85% of the seats in the state Legislature. No Democrat has won a statewide election since former U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in 2012.

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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