Get to Know: Doug Burgum, Republican Candidate for ND Governor

On KVRR Local News at 6, we had a conversation with the Republican candidate for governor of North Dakota, Doug Burgum.

We talked about the economy, oil protest and Trump.

ALISON VOORHEES: Mr. Burgum, the biggest controversy in North Dakota right now is the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline protests south of Bismarck. If you were governor today, how would you settle the issue?

DOUG BURGUM: Well, I think the thing we need to understand is this is a very complex situation and the first thing I want to say is just kudos to all the law enforcement. Now, not only the highway patrolmen, the Morton County personnel…the people who have been coming in from across the state, including here in Cass County to help out but now we’ve got sheriff’s departments coming from around the country and they’ve really been focusing on public safety.  But let’s understand, part of the issue we have here is with the federal government.  We’ve had people who have been on federal land illegally and then we’ve got no federal marshals. So again, we have to go back to the federal government, right all the way up to the White House and say you know, ‘what’s the responsibility of the federal government here in making sure that they’re taking care of this end of the business.  But for us in the state, we have to create an environment of dialogue…we have to be able to find solutions…we have to be able to rise above the current situation. We have to find solutions that work for everybody.

TJ NELSON: Well, you are a very successful businessman…your history with Microsoft very legendary, of course, in this area. You’re involved with a number of business ventures still and on boards…how are you going to deal with that if you are elected governor with no conflict of interest?

DB: Well, I think this is an easy thing in the corporate world when you’ve got new responsibilities that you have to make sure there’s no conflicts of interest. The standards right now in the private sector are actually higher for no conflicts of interest than they are in the public. I’ve been serving on public boards as a corporate officer for over 20 years and the rules and standards around that are very high so I’m very familiar with the concept of governance and very familiar with the idea that you’ve got to eliminate those conflicts of interest and voters can be assured that I’m going to be fully focused on looking out for the best interest of everybody in North Dakota and if successful on November 8th, with everyone’s support, and we hope that’s the case, we’ll be making all the necessary changes after that time to make sure we’ve got succession planning for the private entities that I’m involved in.

AV: Let’s talk about the Main Street Intiative which relies on the skilled workforce. A strong infrastructure and healthy communities to grow the economy. How do you plan on creating and keeping a skilled workforce when so many graduates are attracted to high paying out of state jobs?

DB: I think this is something that I’ve been doing for the last 30 years in North Dakota, which is getting the best and the brightest in North Dakota to either stay here or move back so I’ve got a lot of direct experience in that. One thing that’s clear and understood by my running mate Mayor Brent Sanford of Watford City is we’ve been doing a great job in his community of building a community people want to live in. It’s not just about creating great jobs, we have to create cities that young people want to live in. These two things go hand in hand. Right now today there’s 15,000 jobs open in North Dakota so we’ve got to do a better job of graduating the students here and making sure we’ve got not only great jobs but great communities that make them want to stay.

TJ: Well, one of the biggest issues for homeowners, of course, is rising property taxes. Do you have a plan to maybe provide a little relief to homeowners?

DB: I think that there’s been a lot of talk about property taxes and the state’s portion versus the local portion and how do we think about that? What really drives property taxes up is the underlying cost of services. That’s why I think we have to think about how do we re-invent the way we deliver education…how do we re-invent how we design our cities to make sure that we’re not building in an inherent underlying cost that’s too high. The City of Fargo itself…the footprint of Fargo is now 49 square miles. That’s larger than either Boston or San Francisco. And yet we’ve got a fraction of people and so those of us here are sharing the burden of paying for all those streets, all the sewer, all the infrastructure and I think if we’re smarter about how we design our cities, we can lower property taxes for everyone.

AV: Mr. Burgum, you’re running against Democrat Marvin Nelson and Libertarian party candidate Marty Riske. Why do you think voters should vote for you?

DB: I think there’s some very clear choices here. Once again, what Brent Sanford and I are running on is that we’ve got the skills.  We know the economy is changing and we’re the leadership that can help lead us through a changing economy. We want to be able to diversify the economy and then the other piece is on the budget. We’re facing a one in a half billion dollar more reduction that no legislature has ever faced. Having to take those many dollars out of the state budget…we’re committed to balancing the budget without raising taxes and we know we can get that done with our private sector experience.

TJ: I’m sure this question won’t surprise you at all. Do you support your party’s nominee for president?  Donald Trump?

DB: This has been a crazy year for national politics. I think everybody across maybe both parties wishes that there were…tailwinds versus headwinds for their national party candidates. But what Brent and I have really been focusing on is the issues that are important to North Dakota. So from that standpoint, we’ve been focusing on that. The comments that have come from the Republican leader have been abhorrent and I’ve denounced all of those comments. But I also think in the last several weeks there has been so much information that has come out from the Clinton campaign about things the Clinton Foundation…with the email scandals and all that…that would have killed a half a dozen presidential campaigns but only in this year would a campaign keep rolling through all that. So I’m disappointed that we’ve got a federal process that produces two candidates that a record number of people are dissatisfied with. I know that voters are dissatisfied all over but here again, in North Dakota, we’re going to have to focus on what we can control and lets make sure that we unhinge ourselves from the things we can nationally and go build the most exceptional state we can in spite of the headwinds we might be getting from the federal government and the federal elections.

Hear from the Democratic candidate for governor, Marvin Nelson, on Tuesday November 1st.
We have also invited Libertarian candidate Marty Riske to stop by before the November 8th election as well.

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