North Dakota Republican Primary Election Result Summary

On Tuesday, June 11, North Dakota citizens went to the polls to vote in a historic Primary Election. Under North Dakota law, voters must choose to vote in either the Republican side of the ballot or the Democrat ticket – no crossing over is allowed. The dominant Republican Party in North Dakota is fractured, with traditional Republican candidates and elected officials facing challenges from candidates belonging to the rising populist faction within the party. A number of contests on the Republican side of the ballot – from the legislative level all the way up to the races for Governor and the state’s sole member of the US House of Representatives – saw this dynamic play out, to varying results.

Another major factor is that, given the overall dominance of the Republican Party despite some splintered infighting, in many cases the winner of this contest is also functionally the winner in the General Election this fall. For example, at the legislative level, many of the Republican candidates will not have Democratic opponents in November.

The Race for Governor – Congressman Armstrong Bests Lt. Gov. Miller in Landslide Victory

North Dakota’s sole member of the US House of Representatives – Kelly Armstrong – scored a landslide victory over current Lieutenant Governor Tammy Miller to secure the Republican nomination for Governor. Armstrong was victorious by a margin of 73% to 26%, and will now move on to face the Democrat’s nominee – state Senator Merrill Piepkorn – in the November General Election. The Republican candidate is widely favorited to win this race.

Armstrong is an attorney, former member of the state Senate, former NDGOP Chairman, and current at-large North Dakota Congressman. Shortly after Governor Burgum’s announcement, Armstrong announced he would not seek reelection to his congressional seat, and instead came back to North Dakota to run for Governor. Armstrong attended the 2024 Republican State Convention and received the nomination from the assembled delegates there. His campaign has focused on his experience working within all levels of government, his experience at forming and maintaining key relationships, and his existing depth of policy knowledge. Although he is also a supporter of former President Trump, his messaging did not place that fact as prominently at the forefront as Miller’s Campaign.

Miller is a CPA and former CEO of Border States, which supplies services to businesses in the construction, industrial and utility markets. Early in the race, she was seen as the heir apparent to Governor Burgum, and received his public endorsement. However, she elected not to attend the Republican state convention and decided to go directly to the voters in the Primary. Since she was appointed to the position of Lieutenant Governor by Governor Burgum and has not stood for election before, her messaging focused on her experience as a CEO and her political “outsider” status. On both of those points, her campaign noted the parallels between her and politicians popular in North Dakota like Governor Burgum and former President Trump.

In January, popular incumbent Governor Doug Burgum announced he would not seek reelection to a third term. For the first time since 2000, there is an open seat in the Governor’s Office. A number of candidates announced their intention to seek the office, but only two ultimately stayed in the race long enough to compete in the Primary: Lieutenant Governor Tammy Miller (appointed to her office by Governor Burgum) and Congressman Kelly Armstrong.

U.S. House Race – A resounding victory for Julie Fedorchak in a five-way primary race

The announcement that Congressman Armstrong would seek the Governor’s office created an open seat for North Dakota’s lone Congressional representative. Five Republican candidates filed to fill this seat: Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak, former state Representative Rick Becker (leader of the ultra-right “Bastiat” faction of the party), former Miss America and attorney Cara Mund, and political newcomers Alex Balazs and Sharlet Mohr.

Despite polling showing a tight race, Fedorchak bested Becker easily by a margin of 46% to 29%. Mund received 19%, Balasz claimed 4%, and Mohr received <1%. Fedorchak will face Democratic candidate Trygve Hammer in the General Election. Hammer is a former Marine Corps helicopter pilot, teacher, and oilfield worker.

Commissioner Fedorchak has served on the Public Service Commission since 2013 and is the current president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. She was widely considered the favorite of the “traditional” faction of the Republican Party. Fedorchak participated the Republican State Convention in April, but was not given the endorsement by the delegates due to some intricacies of convention politics. She touted a number of endorsements from members of the Republican establishment, as well as from the state’s potent energy industry.

Former state Representative Dr. Rick Becker, who is a plastic surgeon by trade, was the heavy favorite of the rising populist faction, the Bastiats, within the Republican Party. He was unable to seek the nomination at the State Convention due to party bylaws (Becker ran as an independent in 2022 for the United States Senate) but encouraged his supporters at the convention to spoil their ballots by voting for him anyway in an effort to deny anyone else a majority. This tactic was ultimately successful. Dr. Becker touted endorsements from members of the House Freedom Caucus, Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Matt Gaetz.

Former Miss America and Harvard Law graduate Cara Mund, who sought this office two years ago (running as an Independent) came in third with just over 19%.

Political newcomer Alex Balazs, who impressed convention delegates (and ultimately received the GOP convention endorsement after the second ballot following Julie Fedorchak’s concession of the endorsement to him) was unable to use the endorsement to his advantage in securing a primary victory. Mohr was a non-factor in the race, as she did little campaigning after filing for the election.

Superintendent of Public Instruction – Baesler triumphs; receiving a majority of votes over three opponents

Incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler and former state Senator Jason Heitkamp will advance to the November General Election, with 55% and 22% respectively, in a four-way race for this non-partisan office.

In North Dakota, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, who heads the state’s K-12 education system, is elected on a nonpartisan ballot. For that reason, this race is exempt from the rule for partisan races, and both Republicans and Democrats will vote for the same slate of candidates in this race. Following the Primary Election, the top two vote getters move on to face each other in the general election. There were four contenders for the seat.

Baesler is the incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction and has served in that capacity since she was first elected in 2012. She campaigned on her experience and her specific plan to continue to improve our school system and student outcomes moving forward.

Heitkamp is a former Republican state Senator who left office when the boundaries of his district were redrawn. Heitkamp said his priorities for office are decreasing (and eventually getting rid of) property taxes, improving teachers’ pay and retirement plans and refocusing K-12 curriculum to center on reading, writing and math and civics, health, and fitness.

Jim Bartlett, who received a letter of support from the delegates at the Republican State Convention, is a long-time homeschooling advocate who campaigned on a platform of bringing Christian religious doctrine into public school curricula.

Darko Draganic is a former administrator for the University of Mary and United Tribes Technical College. He ran to address what he characterized as inadequate pay for teachers, an overly bureaucratic education system and lagging student performance.

State Legislative Races – Ultra-right candidates fail in attempt to defeat Incumbent GOP legislators

Intra-party legislative contests in multiple districts throughout the state highlighted Tuesday’s primary. In most cases (in the districts highlighted below) incumbent Republican lawmakers were challenged by newcomers seeking the party nomination through the primary election process. Here is an overview of the results of these races:

District 2: In the contest for the Republican nomination for the State Senate seat, populist Mark Enget beat long time Republican activist Robert “Bob” Harms 65% to 35%. However, in the House contests, longtime Republican incumbent legislators Bert Anderson and Donald Longmuir beat their challengers a combined 58% to 42%

District 6: State Representative Paul Thomas chose to run for an open state Senate against endorsed Republican Zach Lessig, following the retirement of the incumbent Republican Senator Shawn Vedaa. Representative Thomas defeated Lessig 64% to 36%. In the District 6 State House race, Incumbent Representative Dick Anderson won with 29% of the vote, while his running mate Dan Vollmer received second place with 28%. Anderson and Vollmer will advance to the November general election, as the endorsed populist challengers received 22% and 20%, respectively.

District 8: In a major victory for “traditional” Republicans Mike Berg took first place with 28% of the vote. Second place was held by incumbent Republican SuAnn Olson who received 27.18%. Brandon Prichard, a fellow Republican incumbent and Executive Director of Citizens Alliance of North Dakota (an ultra-right political action committee embroiled in scandal and facing an FEC investigation) failed to advance to the November general election securing only 26.67%. Due to the close nature of this race, Representative Prichard is entitled under North Dakota State law to demand a recount if he so chooses.

District 14: In one of the most hotly contested races this primary, incumbent Republicans Robin Weisz and Jon Nelson have defeated populist challengers Jason Steidl and Larry Danduran by a total of 54.69% to a total of 45.28%. This result was a major upset in the eyes of many prognosticators. Meanwhile in the State Senate race incumbent Jerry Klein, the Assistant Senate Majority Leader, defeated challenger Karisa Grothe by a total of 59% to 41%

District 26: In Watford City incumbent Legislator Jeremy Olson was faced by a unified slate in opposition formed by fellow incumbent Republican Kelby Timmons and challenger Roger Maki. Following a highly contention race Representative Jermey Olson took the highest total vote count receiving 37% of the vote, with challenger Roger Maki receiving second place with 32% of the vote. Incumbent Kelby Timmons will not be advancing to the November election following his third-place finish receiving 31% of the votes cast.

District 30: In the aftermath of a district party takeover by far-right activists and a series of highly accusatory advertisements, incumbent Republican Representatives (and Legislative Leaders) Mike Nathe and Glenn Bosch took first and second place with 31% each, while local Republican party populist activists Justis Amundson and David Charles fell short of their aspirations receiving on 19% and 18%, respectively. This race was one of the most expensive legislative primary races of this cycle. In the State Senate race, incumbent Republican Diane Larson (chair of the Judiciary committee) fended off challenger Adam Rose by receiving 60% of the vote total, to Rose’s 40%

District 32: Republican incumbents Lisa Meier and Pat Heinert beat challenger Phillip Jacobs by a combined 76% to 24%

District 34: Republican incumbents Nathan Toman and Todd Porter defeated challenger David Villafana receiving 42%, 39% and 18% respectively

District 42: In Grand Forks in the District 42 House race, incumbent Representative Republican Emily O’Brien received the district Republican party’s endorsement, along with first time candidate Doug Osowski. Unendorsed populist challenger Osowski was the top vote recipient in the race, receiving 42%. O’Brien will also advance to the November election after receiving 29% of the vote. GOP endorsed candidate Sadie Hanson will not advance to the General Election after receiving 28% of the vote. Current state Representative Claire Cory beat endorsed Republican candidate Dustin McNally by a margin of 56% to 44% to advance to the General Election as the Republican nominee. This seat was left vacant due to the retirement of long-time state Senator Curt Kreun.