North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is expected to announce his candidacy for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, two GOP operatives told The Associated Press on Friday, putting him in an already crowded field dominated by ex-President Donald Trump.
The Republicans, who had knowledge of Burgum's plans, said he is expected to announce his candidacy on June 7 at a midday event in Fargo, Burgum's home town. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the event had not been publicized yet.
The 66-year-old Burgum, a former computer software entrepreneur, would be jumping into a field that includes fellow Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, seen by some Republicans as the strongest alternative to Trump. Other candidates include former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Former Vice President Mike Pence is also considered a likely presidential candidate but has not yet announced a bid.
The eventual GOP nominee is expected to face Democratic President Joe Biden in November 2024.
While Burgum has joined other Republican governors in signing legislation rolling back transgender rights, he's expected to emphasize his business background, small-town roots and a large state tax cut this year. Burgum, first elected in 2016, was reelected in 2020 and is eligible to run for governor again in 2024.
In Iowa, where caucuses are expected to be the first-in-the-nation GOP contest, Republican Bruce Rastetter, a wealthy agricultural and energy businessman who met Burgum three years ago, described the North Dakota governor as “a successful guy” and “really smart.” But Rastetter, who has been an influential donor and adviser to presidential campaigns in Iowa, said Burgum’s strength also comes from presenting as “a regular guy.”
“He’s stayed a regular guy, but really understands issues on ag, energy and foreign policy,” said Rastetter, who is helping Burgum make introductions in Iowa, but is so far neutral in the developing 2024 Iowa caucus campaign.
Trump's campaign called Burgum's expected announcement "an indictment of DeSantis' disastrous announcement and his dismal poll numbers." The audio stream crashed repeatedly on Wednesday night during DeSantis' formal campaign launch, an online conversation with Twitter CEO Elon Musk.
“There's blood in the water, and every candidates sees how weak he is,” the Trump campaign said in a statement texted to The AP.
DeSantis' campaign did not respond immediately to an email seeking comment about Burgum, but his campaign said it had raised $8.2 million in the first 24 hourts after the announcement.
The company Burgum started in 1983, Great Plains Software, was acquired by Microsoft in 2011, and Burgum stayed on as a Microsoft vice president until 2007. He also founded real estate development and venture capital firms.
He grew up in Arthur, an eastern North Dakota town of about 300 people, 25 miles (40 kilometers) northwest of Fargo.
Burgum this year signed legislation that reduced state income taxes and provided local property tax relief, with the savings estimated at $515 million. His office touted the income tax cut as the largest in state history.
But with DeSantis building a national profile for anti-LGBTQ+ measures and describing his state of Florida as where "woke goes to die," culture war issues dominated legislating this year in North Dakota and other states controlled by Republicans.
The measures signed this year by Burgum prohibit public schools and government entities from requiring teachers and employees to refer to transgender people by the pronouns they use; bar transgender girls and women from joining female sports teams, from K-12 through college; and criminalize health care providers who give gender-affirming care to minors. A new law also limits transgender children and adults in accessing the bathrooms, locker rooms and showers of their choice, from schools to state-run colleges and correctional facilities.
North Dakota also has one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the nation after Burgum last month signed a ban on abortion throughout pregnancy with slim exceptions up to six weeks' gestation.
Hanna reported from Topeka, Kansas, and Beaumont, from Des Moines, Iowa.
Follow John Hanna on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna