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Port: Trumpists launch petition drive to recall North Dakota Gov. Burgum, Lt. Gov. Sanford

Michael Coachman, an ardent Trump supporter and frequent fringe candidate for statewide office, is chairing an effort to recall Governor Doug Burgum as well as Lt. Governor Brent Sanford.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum meets with the Grand Forks Herald editorial board Thursday, May 13, 2021. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

MINOT, N.D. — The hardcore Trumpist wing of the North Dakota Republican Party suffered a stinging rebuke this last weekend when they failed to elect a single person to a leadership position at the NDGOP's recent reorganization meeting.

But they apparently aren't done tilting and windmills.

Michael Coachman , an ardent Trump supporter and frequent fringe candidate for statewide office, is chairing an effort to recall Gov. Doug Burgum as well as Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford .

Secretary of State Al Jaeger's office has approved their petition for circulation.


Article III, Section 10 of the North Dakota constitution controls the recall process for public officials. To put a recall on the ballot a number of signatures "equal in number to twenty-five percent of those who voted at the preceding general election for the office of governor in the state, county, or district in which the official is to be recalled," that document states.

There were 357,859 votes cast in the gubernatorial race in 2020, meaning the recall petitions will have to collect 89,464 valid signatures to successfully force Burgum and Sanford into a recall election.

That's almost the entire vote total the Democratic-NPL ticket for governor collected in 2020. Gubernatorial candidate Shelley Lenz and her running mate Ben Vig collected just 90,925 votes last year.

Michael Coachman.jpg
Michael Coachman

Coachman actually ran a write-in campaign for governor last year as well — one touted by Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, founder of the Trumpist Bastiat Caucus in the state Legislature — and while it's not clear how many votes Coachman, specifically, received, the total number of write-in ballots was 17,472 or about 4.88 percent of the total ballots cast in the gubernatorial race.

That was up quite a bit from 635 write-in ballots cast in the 2016 race, so there's no question the hardcore Trumpists/Bastiats can move the needle, but I think we have to assume that something in the ballpark of 18,000 is probably the high water mark for what they can hope to achieve in terms of recall signatures.


If they get even that far.

It's one thing to cast a write-in vote in a fit if pique. It's another to find volunteers willing to give up hours and days of their lives to circulate petitions aimed at recalling a governor who just won re-election with over 65 percent of the vote and routinely enjoys ranking as one of the most popular governors in America .

They need almost 90,000 signatures.

They aren't going to find them.

One thing to watch, though, might be involvement from the Democratic-NPL.

It wouldn't be the first time the Democrats used Coachman. During the 2018 election cycle, the Democratic-NPL sent out multiple mailers (which are not cheap) touting Coachman's independent campaign for Secretary of State .

The Dems touted Coachman's affinity for Trump in a transparent effort to split the Republican vote so that their candidate, House Minority Leader Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, could win.

It didn't work and the incumbent, Jaeger, won another term.


But even if the Democrats tried to help Coachman again, could they put him over the top?

It's not likely.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a columnist and podcast host for the Forum News Service. Reach him at
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