(Bloomberg) -- North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum launched a long-shot bid for the Republican presidential nomination, betting that a little-known state chief executive and businessman from the Upper Midwest can emerge as the choice of mainstream Republican voters.

Burgum, 66, filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission and kicked off his campaign with a speech in Fargo on Wednesday, saying he’s running because the US needs a leader whose top priority is the economy and who also focuses on energy and national security.  

“If you want more small-town common sense in Washington, in our big cities, we’ll make that happen,” Burgum said in his speech. “And if you think that we need a governor and business leader who understands this changing economy, I want to earn your vote.”


Burgum barely registers in early polls, but the wealthy former Microsoft Corp. executive, who spent millions on his gubernatorial races, has resources. He also touts his small-town values, being raised in a town of about 300 in a state near Iowa, which holds the first-in-the-nation GOP caucuses. Burgum plans visits to Iowa on Thursday and Friday and New Hampshire on Saturday and Sunday.

He joins a growing GOP field with former President Donald Trump as the clear frontrunner. Other candidates include Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, who’s kicking off his campaign in Iowa on Wednesday, US Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, Ohio businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and conservative radio host Larry Elder.

Burgum won his first term as governor in 2016, upsetting the state party-backed attorney general in a GOP primary by running as a business leader outside the political system. He was reelected by more than 40 points in 2020. 

He touts reversing a $1.7 billion budget shortfall he inherited by reducing spending and enacting the largest individual income tax-cut package in state history. He also signed a law banning abortion after 6 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest and medical emergencies.

Burgum earned an MBA from Stanford University and returned to North Dakota to grow the startup Great Plains Software Inc. in Fargo into a company that was acquired by Microsoft in 2001 for $1.1 billion in stock. He remained at Microsoft as senior vice president through 2007 focused on global business applications.

He founded the real estate development firm Kilbourne Group in 2006 and co-founded the venture capital firm Arthur Ventures in 2008 before entering politics. 

Burgum’s campaign contends that half of the Republican electorate is mainstream voters and that he can emerge focusing on the economy, energy and national security while the other leading candidates are focused on social or culture-war issues.

“I grew up in a tiny town in North Dakota. Woke was what you did at 5 am to start the day,” Burgum said in a campaign video released ahead of his announcement, a jab at both the concept of “woke-ness” itself and at DeSantis and other GOP candidates who emphasize opposing “woke” policies.

The governor focused on President Joe Biden and his administration’s policies in his announcement speech, saying, “Where we come from, when something isn’t working, you stop and you try something new. That’s common sense. Joe Biden has got to go.” 

In the campaign video, Burgum called for “new leadership for our changing economy” and “innovation over regulation.” He also called for expanding oil and gas production and shrinking the federal government to return power to states — with more civility.

“Anger, yelling, infighting — that’s not gonna cut it anymore. Let’s get things done,” Burgum said in the video. “In North Dakota, we listen with respect, and we talk things out. That’s how we can get America back on track. It’ll work.”

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