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Democrats' votes helped Doug Burgum but weren't the difference, observers say

BISMARCK -- State Sen. George Sinner didn't need to see the results of Tuesday's gubernatorial primary to know that a lot of Democrats voted Republican to help Fargo entrepreneur Doug Burgum score a 20-point upset over Attorney General Wayne Sten...

2607092+061516.N.FNS_.GOPGOVERNOR.Burgum.2.jpg
North Dakota governor candidate Doug Burgum makes his way through the crowd to address supporters after winning the Republican vote in the primary election Tuesday, June 14, 2016, at Ecce Gallery in downtown Fargo. (Dave Wallis / The Forum)

BISMARCK - State Sen. George Sinner didn't need to see the results of Tuesday's gubernatorial primary to know that a lot of Democrats voted Republican to help Fargo entrepreneur Doug Burgum score a 20-point upset over Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem for the GOP nomination. The Fargo Democrat just looked at his own race. In the 2012 primary, Sinner received 1,275 votes. On Tuesday, facing the same opponent, he got just 485. "I think people had to cross over," he said. House Majority Leader Al Carlson of Fargo agreed, but both he and Sinner said they don't believe it was the difference in the governor's race. "There was a significant number that I believe did flop over, but not enough to make up that margin," Carlson said. While contested races on primary ballots tend to draw more votes than uncontested races, the difference in voting totals Tuesday seemed to give credence to the crossover theory. More than 113,400 people voted for the Republican candidates for governor. But in the same GOP column - voters can't vote for more than one party on the primary ballot - U.S. Sen. John Hoeven received 102,775 votes, U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer got 95,519 votes and the down-ballot statewide candidates picked up between 90,000 and 93,000 votes, a wider spread than in the June 2012 primary that suggests some Democrats voted on the Republican governor's race but skipped over other GOP candidates. When combining all of the votes cast for governor in Tuesday's primary, only 13 percent voted Democrat, compared with 35 percent in June 2012 and 44 percent in June 2008. The 17,126 votes cast Tuesday for the Democratic-NPL Party's candidate for governor, state Rep. Marvin Nelson of Rolla, was about 40,000 votes fewer than U.S. Heidi Heitkamp received in June 2012. Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, who received just 272 votes running unopposed in District 42 - less than half of the 766 votes he got in the June 2012 primary - said "there's absolutely no question that Doug Burgum received significant crossover support."  
    [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"2607100","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"676","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"691"}}]]   Asked whether that's concerning to see traditional Democratic voters participate in the Republican primary, Schneider said it might be more disheartening to the GOP establishment. "I think what Democrats want is change on a lot of these issues," Schneider said, pointing to mental health care access and "increased investments in education." He said Nelson and his running mate, Sen. Joan Heckaman of New Rockford, will be addressing those issues. "The question is, is Doug Burgum going to address on those issues or keep playing to the far right Republican base?" he said. When asked about the Democratic vote during a press conference Wednesday in Fargo with his running mate, Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford, Burgum said their campaign strategy all along was to focus on Republicans. "This is a Republican primary, and you don't win Republican primaries unless you get Republican voters," he said, later adding, "If someone was an independent that voted Republican for the first time yesterday, then I'd like to call that person a new Republican." Mark Jendrysik, a University of North Dakota political science professor who predicted that Stenehjem's strong name recognition and 40-year history of winning elections as a state legislator and the state's longest-serving attorney general would carry him Tuesday, said he was "shocked" by Burgum's 59 percent-39 percent margin of victory. "I think you can credit it to Democrats crossing over, but I think you can also credit it to there seems to be some dissatisfaction with the Republican establishment in the state," he said. Burgum carried 49 of the state's 53 counties, despite Stenehjem's numerous endorsements, including from Hoeven and current Gov. Jack Dalrymple, the majority of GOP state legislators and the state's largest public employees union. Burgum's lone high-profile endorsement from within the party came from former Gov. Ed Schafer, but Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner of Dickinson - who supported Stenehjem - said he believes Schafer's late nod last week was "a big factor" in Burgum's win. North Dakota Republican Party chairman Kelly Armstrong agreed crossover votes played a role but said he doesn't think that's what determined the election, citing Burgum's strong campaign on the ground, by mail and over the airwaves. "The one thing nobody's going to be able to say is that Doug Burgum didn't work his butt off to be the candidate for governor," he said. "That resonates with people." Despite being a longtime GOP supporter and contributor, Burgum portrayed himself as a political outsider, endorsing Donald Trump for president and spending millions on a campaign that hammered Stenehjem as a career politician and status-quo candidate. "I think there's some political winds that are in the air all across the country right now, and I think his campaign capitalized on some of those, and I think that was a smart tactic," Armstrong said. Burgum's win over the party's endorsed candidate struck another blow to the GOP establishment four years after now-U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer broke ranks and beat endorsed candidate Brian Kalk in the June 2012 primary. Armstrong, a state senator from Dickinson, said party leaders will discuss whether they should stick with their convention endorsement process or seek a different format, such as a closed primary, which would require legislative action and voter registration. North Dakota is the only state in the nation without voter registration, and an interim legislative committee is studying the pros and cons and what it would take to implement it. "I think we need to analyze the value of that convention and see where that needs to go," Carlson said. "I don't think anybody has the answer to that today. I think you need to let the wounds heal a little bit." BISMARCK - State Sen. George Sinner didn't need to see the results of Tuesday's gubernatorial primary to know that a lot of Democrats voted Republican to help Fargo entrepreneur Doug Burgum score a 20-point upset over Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem for the GOP nomination. The Fargo Democrat just looked at his own race. In the 2012 primary, Sinner received 1,275 votes. On Tuesday, facing the same opponent, he got just 485. "I think people had to cross over," he said. House Majority Leader Al Carlson of Fargo agreed, but both he and Sinner said they don't believe it was the difference in the governor's race. "There was a significant number that I believe did flop over, but not enough to make up that margin," Carlson said. While contested races on primary ballots tend to draw more votes than uncontested races, the difference in voting totals Tuesday seemed to give credence to the crossover theory. More than 113,400 people voted for the Republican candidates for governor. But in the same GOP column - voters can't vote for more than one party on the primary ballot - U.S. Sen. John Hoeven received 102,775 votes, U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer got 95,519 votes and the down-ballot statewide candidates picked up between 90,000 and 93,000 votes, a wider spread than in the June 2012 primary that suggests some Democrats voted on the Republican governor's race but skipped over other GOP candidates. When combining all of the votes cast for governor in Tuesday's primary, only 13 percent voted Democrat, compared with 35 percent in June 2012 and 44 percent in June 2008. The 17,126 votes cast Tuesday for the Democratic-NPL Party's candidate for governor, state Rep. Marvin Nelson of Rolla, was about 40,000 votes fewer than U.S. Heidi Heitkamp received in June 2012. Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, who received just 272 votes running unopposed in District 42 - less than half of the 766 votes he got in the June 2012 primary - said "there's absolutely no question that Doug Burgum received significant crossover support."   [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2607700","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"451","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"480"}}]]    
  Asked whether that's concerning to see traditional Democratic voters participate in the Republican primary, Schneider said it might be more disheartening to the GOP establishment. "I think what Democrats want is change on a lot of these issues," Schneider said, pointing to mental health care access and "increased investments in education." He said Nelson and his running mate, Sen. Joan Heckaman of New Rockford, will be addressing those issues. "The question is, is Doug Burgum going to address on those issues or keep playing to the far right Republican base?" he said. When asked about the Democratic vote during a press conference Wednesday in Fargo with his running mate, Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford, Burgum said their campaign strategy all along was to focus on Republicans. "This is a Republican primary, and you don't win Republican primaries unless you get Republican voters," he said, later adding, "If someone was an independent that voted Republican for the first time yesterday, then I'd like to call that person a new Republican." Mark Jendrysik, a University of North Dakota political science professor who predicted that Stenehjem's strong name recognition and 40-year history of winning elections as a state legislator and the state's longest-serving attorney general would carry him Tuesday, said he was "shocked" by Burgum's 59 percent-39 percent margin of victory. "I think you can credit it to Democrats crossing over, but I think you can also credit it to there seems to be some dissatisfaction with the Republican establishment in the state," he said. Burgum carried 49 of the state's 53 counties, despite Stenehjem's numerous endorsements, including from Hoeven and current Gov. Jack Dalrymple, the majority of GOP state legislators and the state's largest public employees union. Burgum's lone high-profile endorsement from within the party came from former Gov. Ed Schafer, but Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner of Dickinson - who supported Stenehjem - said he believes Schafer's late nod last week was "a big factor" in Burgum's win. North Dakota Republican Party chairman Kelly Armstrong agreed crossover votes played a role but said he doesn't think that's what determined the election, citing Burgum's strong campaign on the ground, by mail and over the airwaves. "The one thing nobody's going to be able to say is that Doug Burgum didn't work his butt off to be the candidate for governor," he said. "That resonates with people." Despite being a longtime GOP supporter and contributor, Burgum portrayed himself as a political outsider, endorsing Donald Trump for president and spending millions on a campaign that hammered Stenehjem as a career politician and status-quo candidate. "I think there's some political winds that are in the air all across the country right now, and I think his campaign capitalized on some of those, and I think that was a smart tactic," Armstrong said. Burgum's win over the party's endorsed candidate struck another blow to the GOP establishment four years after now-U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer broke ranks and beat endorsed candidate Brian Kalk in the June 2012 primary. Armstrong, a state senator from Dickinson, said party leaders will discuss whether they should stick with their convention endorsement process or seek a different format, such as a closed primary, which would require legislative action and voter registration. North Dakota is the only state in the nation without voter registration, and an interim legislative committee is studying the pros and cons and what it would take to implement it. "I think we need to analyze the value of that convention and see where that needs to go," Carlson said. "I don't think anybody has the answer to that today. I think you need to let the wounds heal a little bit." BISMARCK - State Sen. George Sinner didn't need to see the results of Tuesday's gubernatorial primary to know that a lot of Democrats voted Republican to help Fargo entrepreneur Doug Burgum score a 20-point upset over Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem for the GOP nomination.The Fargo Democrat just looked at his own race.In the 2012 primary, Sinner received 1,275 votes. On Tuesday, facing the same opponent, he got just 485."I think people had to cross over," he said.House Majority Leader Al Carlson of Fargo agreed, but both he and Sinner said they don't believe it was the difference in the governor's race."There was a significant number that I believe did flop over, but not enough to make up that margin," Carlson said.While contested races on primary ballots tend to draw more votes than uncontested races, the difference in voting totals Tuesday seemed to give credence to the crossover theory.More than 113,400 people voted for the Republican candidates for governor. But in the same GOP column - voters can't vote for more than one party on the primary ballot - U.S. Sen. John Hoeven received 102,775 votes, U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer got 95,519 votes and the down-ballot statewide candidates picked up between 90,000 and 93,000 votes, a wider spread than in the June 2012 primary that suggests some Democrats voted on the Republican governor's race but skipped over other GOP candidates.When combining all of the votes cast for governor in Tuesday's primary, only 13 percent voted Democrat, compared with 35 percent in June 2012 and 44 percent in June 2008. The 17,126 votes cast Tuesday for the Democratic-NPL Party's candidate for governor, state Rep. Marvin Nelson of Rolla, was about 40,000 votes fewer than U.S. Heidi Heitkamp received in June 2012.Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, who received just 272 votes running unopposed in District 42 - less than half of the 766 votes he got in the June 2012 primary - said "there's absolutely no question that Doug Burgum received significant crossover support." 
  [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"2607100","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"676","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"691"}}]] Asked whether that's concerning to see traditional Democratic voters participate in the Republican primary, Schneider said it might be more disheartening to the GOP establishment."I think what Democrats want is change on a lot of these issues," Schneider said, pointing to mental health care access and "increased investments in education."He said Nelson and his running mate, Sen. Joan Heckaman of New Rockford, will be addressing those issues."The question is, is Doug Burgum going to address on those issues or keep playing to the far right Republican base?" he said.When asked about the Democratic vote during a press conference Wednesday in Fargo with his running mate, Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford, Burgum said their campaign strategy all along was to focus on Republicans."This is a Republican primary, and you don't win Republican primaries unless you get Republican voters," he said, later adding, "If someone was an independent that voted Republican for the first time yesterday, then I'd like to call that person a new Republican."Mark Jendrysik, a University of North Dakota political science professor who predicted that Stenehjem's strong name recognition and 40-year history of winning elections as a state legislator and the state's longest-serving attorney general would carry him Tuesday, said he was "shocked" by Burgum's 59 percent-39 percent margin of victory."I think you can credit it to Democrats crossing over, but I think you can also credit it to there seems to be some dissatisfaction with the Republican establishment in the state," he said.Burgum carried 49 of the state's 53 counties, despite Stenehjem's numerous endorsements, including from Hoeven and current Gov. Jack Dalrymple, the majority of GOP state legislators and the state's largest public employees union.Burgum's lone high-profile endorsement from within the party came from former Gov. Ed Schafer, but Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner of Dickinson - who supported Stenehjem - said he believes Schafer's late nod last week was "a big factor" in Burgum's win.North Dakota Republican Party chairman Kelly Armstrong agreed crossover votes played a role but said he doesn't think that's what determined the election, citing Burgum's strong campaign on the ground, by mail and over the airwaves."The one thing nobody's going to be able to say is that Doug Burgum didn't work his butt off to be the candidate for governor," he said. "That resonates with people."Despite being a longtime GOP supporter and contributor, Burgum portrayed himself as a political outsider, endorsing Donald Trump for president and spending millions on a campaign that hammered Stenehjem as a career politician and status-quo candidate."I think there's some political winds that are in the air all across the country right now, and I think his campaign capitalized on some of those, and I think that was a smart tactic," Armstrong said.Burgum's win over the party's endorsed candidate struck another blow to the GOP establishment four years after now-U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer broke ranks and beat endorsed candidate Brian Kalk in the June 2012 primary.Armstrong, a state senator from Dickinson, said party leaders will discuss whether they should stick with their convention endorsement process or seek a different format, such as a closed primary, which would require legislative action and voter registration.North Dakota is the only state in the nation without voter registration, and an interim legislative committee is studying the pros and cons and what it would take to implement it."I think we need to analyze the value of that convention and see where that needs to go," Carlson said. "I don't think anybody has the answer to that today. I think you need to let the wounds heal a little bit."BISMARCK - State Sen. George Sinner didn't need to see the results of Tuesday's gubernatorial primary to know that a lot of Democrats voted Republican to help Fargo entrepreneur Doug Burgum score a 20-point upset over Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem for the GOP nomination.The Fargo Democrat just looked at his own race.In the 2012 primary, Sinner received 1,275 votes. On Tuesday, facing the same opponent, he got just 485."I think people had to cross over," he said.House Majority Leader Al Carlson of Fargo agreed, but both he and Sinner said they don't believe it was the difference in the governor's race."There was a significant number that I believe did flop over, but not enough to make up that margin," Carlson said.While contested races on primary ballots tend to draw more votes than uncontested races, the difference in voting totals Tuesday seemed to give credence to the crossover theory.More than 113,400 people voted for the Republican candidates for governor. But in the same GOP column - voters can't vote for more than one party on the primary ballot - U.S. Sen. John Hoeven received 102,775 votes, U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer got 95,519 votes and the down-ballot statewide candidates picked up between 90,000 and 93,000 votes, a wider spread than in the June 2012 primary that suggests some Democrats voted on the Republican governor's race but skipped over other GOP candidates.When combining all of the votes cast for governor in Tuesday's primary, only 13 percent voted Democrat, compared with 35 percent in June 2012 and 44 percent in June 2008. The 17,126 votes cast Tuesday for the Democratic-NPL Party's candidate for governor, state Rep. Marvin Nelson of Rolla, was about 40,000 votes fewer than U.S. Heidi Heitkamp received in June 2012.Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, who received just 272 votes running unopposed in District 42 - less than half of the 766 votes he got in the June 2012 primary - said "there's absolutely no question that Doug Burgum received significant crossover support." [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2607700","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"451","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"480"}}]]  
 Asked whether that's concerning to see traditional Democratic voters participate in the Republican primary, Schneider said it might be more disheartening to the GOP establishment."I think what Democrats want is change on a lot of these issues," Schneider said, pointing to mental health care access and "increased investments in education."He said Nelson and his running mate, Sen. Joan Heckaman of New Rockford, will be addressing those issues."The question is, is Doug Burgum going to address on those issues or keep playing to the far right Republican base?" he said.When asked about the Democratic vote during a press conference Wednesday in Fargo with his running mate, Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford, Burgum said their campaign strategy all along was to focus on Republicans."This is a Republican primary, and you don't win Republican primaries unless you get Republican voters," he said, later adding, "If someone was an independent that voted Republican for the first time yesterday, then I'd like to call that person a new Republican."Mark Jendrysik, a University of North Dakota political science professor who predicted that Stenehjem's strong name recognition and 40-year history of winning elections as a state legislator and the state's longest-serving attorney general would carry him Tuesday, said he was "shocked" by Burgum's 59 percent-39 percent margin of victory."I think you can credit it to Democrats crossing over, but I think you can also credit it to there seems to be some dissatisfaction with the Republican establishment in the state," he said.Burgum carried 49 of the state's 53 counties, despite Stenehjem's numerous endorsements, including from Hoeven and current Gov. Jack Dalrymple, the majority of GOP state legislators and the state's largest public employees union.Burgum's lone high-profile endorsement from within the party came from former Gov. Ed Schafer, but Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner of Dickinson - who supported Stenehjem - said he believes Schafer's late nod last week was "a big factor" in Burgum's win.North Dakota Republican Party chairman Kelly Armstrong agreed crossover votes played a role but said he doesn't think that's what determined the election, citing Burgum's strong campaign on the ground, by mail and over the airwaves."The one thing nobody's going to be able to say is that Doug Burgum didn't work his butt off to be the candidate for governor," he said. "That resonates with people."Despite being a longtime GOP supporter and contributor, Burgum portrayed himself as a political outsider, endorsing Donald Trump for president and spending millions on a campaign that hammered Stenehjem as a career politician and status-quo candidate."I think there's some political winds that are in the air all across the country right now, and I think his campaign capitalized on some of those, and I think that was a smart tactic," Armstrong said.Burgum's win over the party's endorsed candidate struck another blow to the GOP establishment four years after now-U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer broke ranks and beat endorsed candidate Brian Kalk in the June 2012 primary.Armstrong, a state senator from Dickinson, said party leaders will discuss whether they should stick with their convention endorsement process or seek a different format, such as a closed primary, which would require legislative action and voter registration.North Dakota is the only state in the nation without voter registration, and an interim legislative committee is studying the pros and cons and what it would take to implement it."I think we need to analyze the value of that convention and see where that needs to go," Carlson said. "I don't think anybody has the answer to that today. I think you need to let the wounds heal a little bit."

Related Topics: DOUG BURGUM
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