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Cara Mund, once Miss America, now Republican for free choice and against Trump

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Cara Mund, Miss America 2018, is seeking to become the first woman from North Dakota to enter the U.S. House of Representatives and is running with a unique platform: she is a Republican who supports abortion rights and is against Trump.

Mund was crowned Miss America in 2017 at the age of 23, becoming the only contestant from her state to win the title. She went on to earn a law degree from Harvard Law School and soon after ran unsuccessfully for a seat in Congress as an independent.

Now she is competing in a crowded Republican primary to fill the seat of Rep. Kelly Armstrong, who is running for the state's executive post after Gov. Doug Burgum dropped out of the presidential race and announced he would not seek re-election as governor.

Polls from the North Dakota News Cooperative show her in the middle of the pack, but she hopes the state's open primary, which does not require voter registration, will allow her to win over moderates, independents and even some Democrats, strengthening her position.

Cara Mund spoke openly about controversial topics at Miss America

Mund attended public schools in North Dakota, earned her bachelor's degree from Brown University, and later graduated from Harvard Law School.

She did not shy away from controversial topics during the 2018 Miss America pageant or during her time as crown holder.

During the parade, she criticized the Trump administration for withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement.

Following her victory, she entered into a public conflict with the leadership of the Miss America organization, claiming that she had been “silenced,” “degraded,” and “marginalized” in her role as Miss America.

In 2022, she ran as an independent for the state's only congressional seat. The Independent reported that she was motivated by the leaked Dobbs decision, which signaled the end of abortion rights. Mund lost to incumbent Armstrong with 37.6% of the vote.

Mund describes abortion and Trump's beliefs as conservative issues

In a debate broadcast by local radio station KFGO on May 24, four of the five Republican candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, including Mund, competed against each other.

Mund repeatedly seemed to distinguish herself by pointing out that she was the only moderate, the only lawyer, and the only one who supported issues that today's Republicans typically shy away from.

She criticized Burgum for joining a parade of Republicans who gave speeches outside the Manhattan courthouse where Trump's trial was taking place, despite Trump's news blackout. She called the other candidates in the primary “puppets of Trump” and said her legal experience had led her to believe that criminal trials do not serve as a “distraction,” as her opponents argued. Instead, she supports the presumption of innocence, and that no one is above the law.

Mund also called her opponents ignorant because of their stance on abortion.

Instead of relying on the pro-life message shared by other debate participants, she argued that the right to abortion was consistent with conservative values.

“As a Conservative, I support limited government, and you all want to get into areas where government has no business being. Government shouldn't be in your bedroom, it shouldn't be at your doctor's appointments,” she said at the debate.

North Dakota is a deep red state

Mund's stance toward Trump could make her campaign for votes an uphill battle.

Trump defeated President Joe Biden in North Dakota by more than 30 percentage points in 2020.

Moreover, Mund's rivals are out-raising funds. Campaign finance data show that she has raised just over $17,500 through May 22, while her opponent, Public Service Commission member Julie Fedorchak, has raised nearly $1 million and won Trump's coveted endorsement.

Mund was not immediately available for an interview, but told USA TODAY in an email:

“Many of my supporters, including prominent Republicans in the state, were afraid to support my candidacy because they feared retaliation from the Republican Party,” she wrote. “It is this fear that people continue to feel that reminds me of the importance of my candidacy.”

The state's primary election will take place on Tuesday.

Contributors: Sara M Moniuszko; USA TODAY

Anna Harden

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