McFeely: Mund's already near-impossible battle just got infinitely tougher

By encouraging Mark Haugen to leave the U.S. House race, Democrats assure independent candidate will be labeled as anything but independent

Cara Mund meets with residents as she collects signatures Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in West Acres Mall, Fargo, to be placed on the ballot for the U.S. House of Representatives as an independent.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum
We are part of The Trust Project.

FARGO — The beauty of Cara Mund's organic and independent bid for North Dakota's U.S. House seat was that it was organic and independent, a longshot bid that had the potential to shake up an otherwise boring political year and at least make incumbent Republican Kelly Armstrong lose a bead of sweat or two.

Mund wasn't going win, but it was going to be interesting to see how much of the vote a third candidate could garner taking on Armstrong and Democrat Mark Haugen.

And perhaps that could've opened the door for more independent candidates in the state. Which, from an avowed left-leaning position, would be a good thing in nuclear red North Dakota. Democrats aren't going to win head-to-head races. But can they, or an intriguing independent candidate, win with the vote split three ways?

Math. It's cool.

Related content
Several members of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL, people who serve in leadership positions in the party, and who have represented the party on the ballot, are using words like "disgusted" and

Unfortunately, some North Dakota Democrats just couldn't help themselves. And any hope Mund had of rattling some cages this fall evaporated.


The hot political news in North Dakota is that Haugen, who volunteered at the Democratic convention to run against Armstrong when nobody else would, was encouraged by some Democrats to drop out of the race to make way for Mund.

There are Democratic fingerprints all over this development.

Republicans, predictably and wisely, immediately branded Mund a tool of the Democrats and assailed her as "radical" because of her pro-choice stance on abortion.

More from Mike McFeely

Mund's already uphill battle got infinitely more difficult.

It's become a one-on-one partisan "us vs. them" race. Republicans don't lose "us vs. them" races in North Dakota.

Mund is much less strong labeled as "progressive" or a "Democrat" than as "moderate" or "independent" when compared to Armstrong.

She is already getting bad press because of Haugen's ouster. Forum News Service columnist Rob Port quoted a few Democrats who used words like "disservice," "disgusted" and "appalled" to describe Haugen's treatment.

Mund's most notable stance thus far has been abortion. She's pro-choice. National trends show independents and Democrats (and very quiet pro-choice Republicans) energized by the overturning of Roe vs. Wade. It's a thing. Both Haugen and Armstrong are anti-choice, so Mund provided an off-ramp for Democrats, Republicans (particularly women) and independents.


The anti-choice vote would've been split. Now there's only one alternative in Armstrong.

Can Mund get to 51%? No. Was it an easier path to get to 41%, with Armstrong getting, say, 40% and Haugen getting 19%? Yes, although admittedly still almost impossible.

But the sliver of a chance Mund had to disrupt the race was the chaos brought about by her independent, third-person bid. Give voters, particularly Republicans disgusted by Trumpism who will never vote for a Democrat, a third option. Give everyone disheartened by hyper-partisan party politics an alternative, as young and inexperienced as it might be.

That was the chance Mund had to make some noise and build a political brand for the future. She likely wasn't going to win this year. But playing the long game, could she have been more relevant and better funded in 2024? Or 2026?

Maybe. Instead, Mund will be climbing Mount Everest instead of Mount Denali.

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.
What to read next
Burgum talks budget and tax cuts with Rob Port and Ben Hanson on this episode of Plain Talk.
When we talk about North Dakota's general fund spending, we talk about less than half of the dollars state lawmakers appropriated. We need a better way to measure state spending.
"You love who you love."
North Dakota judges are already required to report deviations to minimum sentencing guidelines, and there have been just two since 2016.