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McFeely: How NDGOP responds to Mund will be telling

If Rep. Kelly Armstrong and his surrogates believe independent candidate Cara Mund is a threat, you'll know it by how they treat her

Cara Mund.PNG
North Dakotan Cara Mund, who was Miss America in 2018, graduated from Harvard Law School.
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FARGO — Whether or not Cara Mund's independent bid for North Dakota's U.S. House seat will gain traction remains an open question. She held her first public event in Bismarck on Monday evening in an attempt to gather petition signatures. Jeremy Turley of Forum News Service was there to ask Mund's stance on key issues, but there's been no word how many people signed her petition.

She needs 1,000 signatures turned into Secretary of State Al Jaeger by Sept. 6, and those signatures have to be deemed legitimate by the longtime Republican office-holder for Mund to make the November ballot.

Pro tip: Give yourself a nice cushion of signatures, Cara, because even though your candidacy is a long shot, Republicans would prefer you not be on the ballot.

Another pro tip: Whoever is running Mund's campaign, herself or whomever, might want to get her in front of the state's largest news organizations for sit-down interviews. Forum Communications Co., with InForum and WDAY-TV leading the brand, might be a good place to start. Strike while the iron is hot.

Does Mund have a chance to win? Does she have a chance to at least ruffle some feathers? Will incumbent Rep. Kelly Armstrong and the state Republican Party get uncomfortable enough to trash Mund — at least through their media surrogates — as November nears?

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All worthy questions. We're weeks away from knowing answers.

But some things to watch.

If conservative media in the state get openly misogynistic and mean, you'll know Mund is under the GOP's skin. It's one thing to brush off a competitor as irrelevant, it's another to get personal and demeaning.

There are obvious things on which Armstrong's surrogates can criticize Mund, namely her lack of experience. She's 28 years old and just recently graduated from Harvard Law School. She's never held political office, elected or otherwise.

That should be enough.

But it will be curious to watch if the NDGOP and its friends belittle Mund by regularly referring to her as a "beauty queen" or some other code meant to minimize her accomplishments. Not a "former Miss America," but a "beauty queen." Words matter and in this case, "beauty queen" would seem to be a thinly veiled reference to someone without attributes other than her physical appearance. A lightweight. An airheaded girl.

To refer to Mund in these terms would be, of course, blatantly misogynistic. What a terrible way to view a successful and driven young woman from North Dakota.

Despite being young, and despite the reason her name ID being high is because she was Miss America, there's some meat on Mund's resume. She's a North Dakota success story.

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Mund has an undergraduate degree from one Ivy League institution (Brown) and a law degree from another (Harvard). She graduated from Harvard with distinction. Mund was an honors graduate in Business, Entrepreneurship and Organization from Brown.

She received Harvard Law's Kristin P. Muniz Memorial Award, which recognizes a graduating student "who has demonstrated an exemplary dedication to client-centered representation in criminal courts and has focused their efforts on racial justice and equality, respect for human dignity, fairness, diversity, and compassion."

While Miss America, according to her website, she served as the National Goodwill Ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, worked closely with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and supported troops with the United Service Organizations.

Those all seem like items worthy of respect, whether or not you believe Mund has the chops yet to be a member of Congress.

It doesn't compare to Armstrong's harrowing tale of being born into wealth before using that advantage to get a law degree, enter politics and make himself fabulously wealthier — being born on third base is way harder than it looks — but it's not bad.

Mund's is a great story: Got the state national positive publicity, earned a prestigious law degree, returned to the state when she could've gone anywhere and made a pile of money, wants to enter public service. To be dismissive of it seems odd.

Maybe Armstrong and Republicans won't see Mund as a big enough threat to spend time worrying about her. That's a distinct possibility. But if they feel threatened, watch to see how they and their surrogates deal with it. It'll tell you all you need to know.

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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