With Dalrymple Out, Speculation Begins on Next ND Governor

James MacPherson
Associated Press

Gov. Jack Dalrymple's announcement that he won't seek a second full term sets off a potential scramble to replace him. Here's a rundown of who's who among the potential hopefuls on both the Republican and Democratic sides:


Rumors of a Heitkamp bid for governor were swirling months before Darlymple's announcement Monday that he would not seek re-election. However, the 59-year-old Heitkamp remains non-committal.

Heitkamp told The Associated Press Tuesday that she will decide "sooner rather than later" on whether she will run for governor.

Her entry into the race almost certainly would provide Democrats the best chance to win the governorship, which hasn't been held by the party in more than 20 years. The pro-coal, pro-oil Heitkamp has appealed to voters in heavily Republican North Dakota by emphasizing her independence from her party. Many North Dakotans view her as more of an independent than a Democrat.

Should she run for governor, Democrats would have to attempt to defend her U.S. Senate seat. Senate Democrats had needed to pick up four seats in next year's election to control the chamber but now face the possible loss of a Republican-leaning seat that they thought was locked up until 2018.

The carrot for Heitkamp, if elected governor, would be to guide a state that is experiencing unprecedented economic success. It also would mean unfinished business for the former state tax commissioner and attorney general, who made an unsuccessful bid for the governor's mansion in 2000, losing to Republican John Hoeven.



Dalrymple's running mate Wrigley, who is serving his first four-year term as lieutenant governor, is atop the short list of potential GOP gubernatorial candidates. Wrigley told the AP that he's "actively considering" a run for governor. The 49-year-old former aide to former Gov. Hoeven is best known for his role as the state's chief federal law enforcement officer.

As a former U.S. attorney, Wrigley successfully prosecuted Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. for kidnapping and causing the death of former University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin in November 2003. Wrigley also obtained North Dakota's first federal death penalty verdict in the case.



The Republican attorney general, a former Grand Forks lawyer and longtime state legislator, was first elected in 2000 and has been easily re-elected ever since. As a legislator, he supported an overhaul of North Dakota's court system, laws against domestic violence, consumer protection measures and legislation to keep North Dakota's government meetings and records open to the public. As attorney general, he has led efforts to crack down on methamphetamine and growing crime in North Dakota's oil patch. At campaigns, he has brandished a wooden club in the shape of a small baseball bat with the slogan, "Stenehjem: Tough on Crime."

Stenehjem is a native of Mohall who grew up in Williston and has a wide geographic base, having lived in western, eastern and central North Dakota. He replaced Heitkamp as attorney general when she made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2000.



The former U.S. attorney nominated by President Barack Obama and a fourth-generation North Dakotan, has been a longtime Democratic loyalist in the state, once serving as a national committeeman.

Purdon, 46, a native of Oakes, stepped down as the state's federal prosecutor in March, after five years, where he focused strongly on oil patch-related crime and American Indian issues. He and former South Dakota U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson now are with the Minneapolis-based Robins Kaplan law firm, looking to represent tribes around the country on a variety of issues.



Burgum, a philanthropist and former Microsoft Corp. executive, is being mentioned as a possible wild card in the race for governor. The 59-year-old native of Arthur, a town of about 400 people in southeastern North Dakota, is a longtime Republican supporter but has been critical of the GOP-led Legislature's stance on social issues, including its failure to pass a bill that would have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Some GOP faithful fear Burgum, if he does seek the governorship, may do so as an independent, and his financial wherewithal would make him a formidable candidate. Burgum is known in North Dakota as the godfather of software for building Fargo's Great Plains Software into a billion-dollar business, which he later sold to Microsoft, where he worked until 2007.

Burgum is the recipient of North Dakota's highest honor, the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider award.



Heidi Heitkamp's younger brother, Joel, a prominent North Dakota political figure and radio talk show host, also has been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor if his sister doesn't run. Heitkamp, 53, a Democrat from Hankinson, served in the state Senate from 1994 to 2008 and now hosts talk and news radio show on KFGO radio, where he also serves as the station's operation manager.