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Port: Still waiting to find some substance in Cara Mund's nascent congressional campaign

If elected, Mund would have to choose a party to work with. Who would she choose? Maybe she'll refuse to answer, just as she's refused to answer who she voted for in 2020.

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Miss North Dakota Cara Mund reacts after being announced as the winner of the Miss America competition Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Mark Makela / Reuters
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MINOT, N.D. — No, Cara Mund, you will not be the first female to run for Congress in North Dakota.

“I think people are excited to see another name on the ballot and to see a woman for the first time ever in that role or position as someone you can vote for," the former Miss America told reporters for Fargo-based television station Valley News Live while collecting signatures for her independent run . "It’s important we have that representation, especially now in 2022. It should not be the first time a woman has been placed on this ballot for this role."

Here's the thing: If Mund gets her signatures, it won't be the first time a woman has been on North Dakota's ballot for this role.

It wouldn't even be the second time.

If we're talking about Congress, broadly, then we shouldn't forget that Heidi Heitkamp was our U.S. Senator through 2012. Prior to that, Jocelyn Burdick represented North Dakota in the Senate, though she was appointed, not elected, and her tenure there was brief.

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But if we're talking strictly about the U.S. House? Where Mund hopes to be seated?

Pam Gulleson received the Democratic-NPL's nomination to run for the U.S. House back in 2012. She was defeated by Republican Kevin Cramer, but received a very respectable 41.8% of the vote.

It's been downhill for the Democrats since then. In 2014 and 2016, George Sinner and Chase Iron Eyes received 38.5 and 23.8%, respectively. Current incumbent, Republican Kelly Armstrong, with whom Mund hopes to contend this November, has yet to earn less than 60% of the statewide vote.

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"We have polled three times since Cara has gotten in the race. We have used three different polling companies to ensure we are getting the most diverse/accurate information," Armstrong told me of his surveys. "We don't do it for a press release. We do it so that we know how to move forward with our campaign. The only way to do that well is if we can trust the data."
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Not that Republicans haven't had their own lows. Former Senator Byron Dorgan, running for re-election to the U.S. House at the time, once got 78 percent of the vote against Lois Altenburg, a woman who was the Republican candidate for Congress that year.

Anyway, you'd think that Mund would remember Gulleson, at least, if not Altenburg. She would have been 18, and (hopefully) voting for the first time in November of 2012. Maybe she wasn't living in North Dakota at the time?

Still, 2012 wasn't even that long ago. Even those who "report" for Valley News Live should have remembered Gulleson.

Which brings me to another problem with Mund's campaign: While she perpetrates shallow bromides, our state's political reporters aren't pushing back on them. "But Rob," some of you will say, "Mund is just beginning her campaign! Cut her some slack!"

That's a rebuttal that make sense in May. Mund launched her campaign in August. Early voting commences just 45 days from the date I'm typing these words. Mund must stop expecting the rest of us to take her campaign more seriously than she is.

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Need another example? Let's talk about this whole "I'm a person not a party" thing. "I think the best part is I can take the best of both parties and find what's best for North Dakotans," she told the Bismarck Tribune, describing her decision to run as an independent.

That sounds nice, as a platitude, but that's also not how Congress works.

Mund should tell us who she plans to caucus with should she be elected to serve in Congress. This is an important question, because while we have independents in Congress (Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, presently), they have to choose to caucus with one of the two major parties.

Both King and Sanders caucus with the Democrats. If they didn't, they wouldn't have any committee assignments, and their ability to serve their states would be severely compromised.

If elected, Mund would have to choose a party to work with. Who would she choose?

Maybe she'll refuse to answer, just as she's refused to answer who she voted for in 2020 .

Mund claims to be a sort of centrist, though I've yet to see where she's articulated an even remotely concrete position on an issue that might be appealing to Republicans.

She has said she is a fan of the judicial philosophy of former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She derided the Trump-era decision to withdraw America from the Paris Accord. She is pro-choice, and even beyond her position on abortion, was critical of the U.S. Supreme Court finding that the Roe v. Wade precedent, which found in the U.S. Constitution a right to an abortion that was never written there, was improperly decided.

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Maybe, before North Dakotans begin voting, she could get around to describing a position Republicans might like?

Am I being too tough on Mund? Maybe, but this isn't a beauty pageant, and while it may be a quaint notion in this era of celebrity candidates, but I expect people who seek to wield the awesome power of political office to be transparent about who they are and what they stand for.

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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