Gubernatorial candidate says Burgum is too distracted by the Trump campaign

Sen. Merrill Piepkorn delivers a speech for his gubernatorial campaign alongside running mate Patrick Hart on the steps of the North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck on May 21, 2024. (Mary Steurer/North Dakota Monitor)

Gubernatorial candidate Sen. Merrill Piepkorn, D-Fargo, criticized Gov. at a news conference Tuesday. Doug Burgum as an absent leader with divided loyalties.

During the event, Piepkorn and his running mate Patrick Hart — a contractor and former state employee — presented themselves as candidates for North Dakota voters who have lost trust in the state's current leadership.

“Let’s tell the governor to put North Dakota first,” Piepkorn said from a podium on the Capitol steps. “Let us restore the integrity of this House of the People.”

Piepkorn expressed disapproval Burgum's performance on May 14 at the criminal trial of former President Donald Trump in Manhattan.

“If a governor is busy and constantly leaving his state to do someone else's party business, voters have a right to ask, 'How much is this person working for the people of North Dakota?'” Piepkorn said.

Burgum is not seeking re-election. The governor is believed to be a contender for vice president or another White House Cabinet post if Trump is re-elected.

If Burgum announced in January He announced he would not seek a third term, but promised he would work diligently for the state in his final year, including meetings with state agencies to develop strategic budget proposals before the next legislative session.

Lieutenant Governor Tammy Miller is running to replace Burgum as governor. Her vice president is Trade Commissioner Josh Teigen.

Piepkorn also criticized the governor's recent budget proposals, which called for major state agencies to cut their operating budgets by three percent.

At a recent presentation of the proposals, Burgum defended his recommendations, saying they were in the best interest of the state's long-term financial health.

“We recognize that asking agencies to cut their budgets may seem counterintuitive when our state coffers and reserves are flush with cash,” Burgum said at the May 9 event. “But the current trajectory of our overall state budget requires us to contain costs, and we must identify additional areas for efficiency and savings if we are to ensure that current revenues can cover expenses over the long term.”

However, Piepkorn said there are already areas of state government that are underfunded – such as the pay of ordinary state employees.

“I think we need to address today’s needs now,” he said.

Piepkorn also said Tuesday that Burgum should have vetoed several bills targeting LGBTQ North Dakotans during the 2023 legislative session.

Burgum signed a handful of bills affecting transgender people. These include measures that criminalize gender-affirming care of minors, ban transgender people from using restrooms in schools and some public housing facilities that match their gender identity, and ban transgender girls and women from participating in girls' sports from elementary school through for high school and universities.

Hart, meanwhile, called for more transparency from Miller about where Legacy Fund dollars are invested. The Legacy Fund is a state trust fund consisting of oil and tax revenues. It is managed by the State Investment Board, of which Miller is chairman.

A North Dakota News Cooperative poll stated that respondents would like the state to publicize Legacy Fund investments rather than requiring citizens to file open records requests.

Bismarck-based attorney Tory Jackson asked for a list of Legacy Fund holdings by country and company. In return he received a 57-page list of investments. Some were identified not by country, but by categories such as “Emerging Markets Region” and “Global Region”. Jackson, who wrote a column Criticizing the Legacy Fund's transparency, he has since sought an attorney general's opinion on whether the state is violating the Open Records Act.

In response to a request for comment from the North Dakota Monitor, spokesman Mike Nowatzki said the governor's office typically does not comment on attacks from political campaigns.

He said the state is already transparent about investments in the Legacy Fund, including disclosure monthly performance reports. Miller also defended the fund's transparency and said the State Investment Board's meetings are public.

Hart also condemned what he said was widespread unethical behavior by lawmakers and other senior officials.

“We need a strong and well-funded ethics commission that is able to define legal and ethical violations,” Hart said. “We need lawmakers who have high personal standards and show respect for all of North Dakota, and we need an executive branch who will ensure North Dakotans can trust their government to work for them.”


Gubernatorial candidate says Burgum is too distracted by Trump campaign appeared first on North Dakota Monitor.

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