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Port: Cara Mund is in danger of being pigeonholed as the favorite candidate of North Dakota's liberals

Mund is not going to be elected to the House of Representatives by taking the votes of disappointed progressives away from the pro-life Democratic-NPL candidate. Even if she took them all - and she won't - there wouldn't be enough to win.

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Cara Mund speaks to supporter W. Daniel Schreck while gathering signatures in Bismarck on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service
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MINOT, N.D. — Let's stipulate, for the purposes of this column, to the idea that former Miss America Cara Mund believes what she says when she tells us she's an independent with no great affinity for either political party.

Let's set aside any concerns that this might be a gambit deployed by a largely left-leaning candidate who wants to eschew, at least nominally, the Democratic brand in a very Republican state where no Democrat has won on the statewide ballot since 2012.

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Mark Haugen at the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party's state convention in Minot on Saturday, March 26, 2022.
Kyle Martin / The Forum

Whatever is truly behind Mund's motivations, she's quickly being defined, both by her actions and those most enthusiastic about her campaign, as an alternative candidate for North Dakota liberals chagrined that the Democratic-NPL candidate, Mark Haugen, is pro-life.

Allow me to make my case.

This week Mund held a fundraiser at the home Thomas Dickson , a long-time liberal activist, a former chairman of the Democratic-NPL, and the former chairman of Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's campaign. Based on the pictures and social media posts from the event, if there was someone who might credibly be called right-of-center in attendance, I don't know who they are.

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Today she gave the first long-form interview of her campaign to left-wing talk radio host Joel Heitkamp , brother to Heidi Heitkamp, who pitched the candidate softballs while looking on adoringly.

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At one point Heitkamp asked Mund if she voted for Donald Trump in 2016 or 2020, and she refused to name who she voted for, and instead of pushing this largely undefined political newcomer to give voters a straight answer, Heitkamp made some excuse for her having to do with the privacy of the voting booth.

Great journalism, that. Anyone think he would have accepted a nonanswer like that from a Republican?

Let's keep going.

The state's left-of-center columnists have been doing a lot of heavy breathing about her campaign, too.

Mike McFeely is enthusiastic .

Jim Shaw is gung-ho .

Mike Jacobs is smiling .

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Lloyd Omdahl is on the bus .

Tony Bender is thrilled .

On social media, it's probably not your conservative friends who are enthusiastic about Mund's entry to the House race.

North Dakota's voters are watching all this. They know where these commentators come down politically. They may be wondering to themselves how someone who is supposedly independent, someone who claims to have problems with both parties, can garner so much adoring attention from just one side of the political divide.

Congressman Kelly Armstrong
Congressman Kelly Armstrong addresses the North Dakota Republican Party's 2022 state convention in Bismarck on April 2, 2022.
Photo by Kyle Martin

Our state's right-of-center voters are out there waiting for Mund to do something that appeals to them.

If the political independence Mund lays claim to is genuine, and it's not a campaign costume she's donned for the sake of expediency, then she should be mindful of how she's being perceived. The left-of-center columnists and activists and radio hosts she's ingratiated herself to represent the minority in North Dakota's electorate.

Mund is not going to be elected to the House of Representatives by taking the votes of disappointed progressives away from the pro-life Democratic-NPL candidate. Even if she took them all — and she won't — there wouldn't be enough to win.

In North Dakota, nobody wins on the statewide ballot without appealing to a lot of people who think of themselves as Republicans.

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Mund will go nowhere if she doesn't peel some Republican and conservative-leaning independent voters away from Armstrong.

And she's not going to do that while basking in the adulation of a left-wing audience.

By the way, if you'd like to hear Mund debate Armstrong and Haugen, subscribe to my Plain Talk podcast . That debate will be the Wednesday, Sept. 7, episode.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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