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North Dakota Dem-NPL torchbearers urged party's endorsed House candidate to quit race

After receiving pressure from within his own party to exit the U.S. House race, endorsed Democratic-NPL candidate Mark Haugen announced he would suspend his campaign “with a heavy heart.” His exit makes way for GOP incumbent Kelly Armstrong and independent candidate Cara Mund to square off.

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Mark Haugen, the endorsed Democratic-NPL candidate for U.S. House, speaks about his decision to withdraw from the race on Monday, Sept. 5, at his Bismarck home.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service
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BISMARCK — When Mark Haugen volunteered to run for the U.S. House of Representatives at the Democratic-NPL state convention in March, party leaders commended his willingness to carry the party’s flag into a challenging battle against Republican incumbent Kelly Armstrong.

But after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and to allow states to ban abortion, some Democrats became uncomfortable with Haugen’s firmly established anti-abortion stance.

The late entrance of independent pro-abortion rights candidate Cara Mund into the race last month shifted the support of some Democrats away from the party’s endorsed candidate. Haugen knew he and Mund, a well-known former pageant winner, would split the “progressive” vote, giving Armstrong an easier path to victory.

After receiving pressure from within his own party to exit the race, Haugen announced in a news release Sunday, Sept. 4, that he would suspend his campaign “with a heavy heart.”

At a Monday press conference in his backyard, Haugen said he was leaning toward staying in the race until Saturday when he received calls and texts from several Democratic torchbearers, including former U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad and former U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy, asking him to bow out to make way for Mund’s candidacy.

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“We (my wife and I) got up on Sunday morning and we said, ‘There is probably not an avenue for me to continue — to win this campaign,’” Haugen said. “I just didn’t see a path going (forward) if I don’t have key party support.”

The candidate told Forum News Service he will deliver notice of his withdrawal to Secretary of State Al Jaeger’s office on Tuesday.

Haugen, a longtime active party member, said he is disheartened by the Democratic-NPL’s reluctance to stand behind an anti-abortion candidate.

“I’m wavering in my belief that we’re a big-tent party right now, and maybe that‘ll change, but I got into Democratic-NPL politics because I thought we were a big-tent party,” Haugen said. “I hope and believe that we can become an inclusive party that accepts all views, but the messages I received recently… it’s been hard on my wife and I.”

The University of Mary student adviser noted that he has “too many good friends in the party” to break off ties with the organization, but he said, “I still need to step back and let the election play itself out.”

When asked if he planned to support Mund, Haugen said he will “step away” from the campaign trail other than to back other endorsed Democrats.

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Cara Mund, who recently announced her bid for U.S. House of Representatives, speaks to supporter W. Daniel Schreck while gathering signatures in Bismarck on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service

Democratic-NPL Chairman Pat Hart noted at the press conference that Mund has not asked for the party’s endorsement. When asked if he will campaign for Mund, Hart said, “I’m here to get Democrats elected.”

Hart praised his friend Haugen, saying the House race is losing a candidate with integrity. The chairman said he still believes the Democrats have an inclusive party with room for members of differing views.

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Mund, a former Miss America titleholder and recent Harvard Law School graduate, told Forum News Service she expects to turn in the necessary signatures on Tuesday to make the November ballot as an independent candidate.

Both Mund and Armstrong offered praise to Haugen after his decision to leave the race.

“Mark’s decision to suspend his campaign could not have been easy,” Mund said on Twitter. “His willingness to step up for his party while also staying true to himself is something I admire greatly about him.”

“He stepped up for his party when no one else would. As a former party chairman I have a lot of respect for that,” Armstrong said on Twitter.

Congressman Kelly Armstrong
Congressman Kelly Armstrong addresses the North Dakota Republican Party's 2022 state convention in Bismarck on April 2, 2022.
Kyle Martin / Forum News Service

The state Republican Party used Haugen’s exit as an opportunity to bash Mund and hold up Armstrong.

“Dem-NPL is finally saying the quiet part out loud: Cara is a radical Democrat who is more in tune with their agenda,” a GOP statement read. “No matter who is on the ballot, Congressman Armstrong will continue to put North Dakota first.”

Republicans hold all of North Dakota’s statewide and congressional offices, and 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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