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Who Shark Tank supports in the 2024 election.


Kevin O'Leary of Shark Tank fame loves this guy as well. He's done business with Doug and thinks he combines business skills (as a successful entrepreneur) with experience in government. He goes on to say that Burgum is level-headed, fair and a street-smart guy.


O'Leary was also a successful Canadian politician before embarking on a business career.


Or we can settle for the two current front runners.


Doug Burgum: From Fargo, to Microsoft, to the White House in 2024?

North Dakota’s governor on his presidential bid, the politics of energy, and why he prefers to stay out of the culture wars.

By Kyle Peterson, WSJ


July 21, 2023 1:55 pm ET


Doug Burgum, the governor of North Dakota, hopes to be on stage at the GOP’s first 2024 presidential debate, but in the days after his campaign announcement last month, the electorate’s reaction was: Doug who, from where? In one poll, 89% of Republicans didn’t know him enough to have an opinion.


“I grew up in Arthur, 300 people,” Mr. Burgum, 66, says, in an introduction on a visit to the Journal. “My grandparents had founded that grain elevator over a century ago.” His father, a Navy veteran who’d been in Tokyo Bay for Japan’s 1945 surrender, died when Mr. Burgum was in high school, and his mom went back to work. After graduating from North Dakota State University and earning a Stanford M.B.A., he went all in on a Fargo startup coding accounting software.


“I had a bit of farm ground I got from my dad,” he says. “I literally bet the farm.” Mr. Burgum eventually led Great Plains Software to a $1.1 billion buyout in 2001 by Microsoft, where he stayed on for seven years: “I was reporting directly to Steve Ballmer, who was CEO. I was running one of the seven P&Ls,” or profit-and-loss lines. He won the governorship in a 2016 upset and a resounding re-election four years later.


Now aiming for the White House, Mr. Burgum tells another underdog story. “Our path is making the case that we are the best equipped to not only beat Joe Biden, but we’re also the best equipped to actually do the job,” he says. “I hope at some point, competence still matters.” If government efficiency is considered an oxymoron, Mr. Burgum thinks it doesn’t need to be. “In North Dakota, we treat the taxpayers like they’re customers,” he says. “There’s so much we can do to reduce the size and scope of the two million federal employees, just by having a business mind-set.”


Skeptical voters from big, crowded states might scoff that Mr. Burgum is leading one of the nation’s smallest—population: 780,000. But as an origin for a political leader, is it more unconventional than Bill Clinton’s Hope, Ark., or Jimmy Carter’s Plains, Ga.? Dwight Eisenhower and Bob Dole were Kansans. George McGovern got crushed in 1972, but not because of his South Dakotaness. Vermont’s sparse country, with 650,000 souls, didn’t stop Bernie Sanders from nearly being the Democratic nominee in 2020, and Joe Biden’s Delaware is a quintessential little state.


One thing Mr. Burgum thinks North Dakota can teach the country is how to keep the lights on and address climate change at the same time. He’s a fracking enthusiast with a CEO’s attention to detail. The Bakken Shale, 2 miles down, is only 30 feet thick, Mr. Burgum says, but that’s no trouble for today’s horizontal drillers. “The majority of the wells we’re permitting now are 3-mile laterals,” he says. Some are 4 miles, unlocking more energy for the same footprint on the surface.


“At 7,000 feet underground,” he continues, “there’s a 300-foot layer of sandstone called the Broom Creek, and we can store all the nation’s CO2 for the next 50 years, if you could get it to North Dakota.” Some projects are in the works, and Mr. Burgum doesn’t see real environmental concerns. “There’s a huge layer of shale above and below,” he says. “It’s a mile away from any water supply. And by the way, if CO2 got into your water supply, you’d have carbonated water instead of regular water. I mean, it’s not a toxic chemical.”


Mr. Burgum’s goal is for North Dakota to be carbon-neutral by 2030, “without a single mandate, and without any new regulations,” by using technology instead of trying to end fossil fuels. “If you’re really concerned about CO2,” he says, “you’d want to have every drop of energy produced in the United States. We do it cleaner, safer, better. It’s so hypocritical.” North Dakota’s output is running about 400,000 barrels of oil a day “below where we were pre-Biden.” Yet the White House has gone looking for energy in Venezuela: “Do they have an EPA? Last time I checked, they don’t.”


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Pipelines are another sore subject. “The Keystone XL Pipeline was a legally permitted project that was moving a legally permitted product,” Mr. Burgum says, until Mr. Biden canceled it by fiat on Inauguration Day. “How do you get anything built in this country, if you think the next president is going to whack it on day one?” Then there’s the 2016-17 occupation of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which the press made a cause célèbre. If authorities hadn’t cleaned out the protest camp, Mr. Burgum says, it would have been “the largest ecological disaster in the history of the Missouri River.” Sitting in the flood plain were abandoned cars and propane tanks “that would have been bobbing down the river to Omaha.”


Also misunderstood nationally was a proposed $700 million corn mill about 12 miles from Grand Forks Air Force Base. “It was a U.S. subsidiary of a Chinese company,” Mr. Burgum says. “The guys that are doing the project, they’re all from Wisconsin.” The plant would have raised area corn prices “50 cents or a buck,” and it was on-shoring, “because they were doing a veterinary product called lysine, which we import over 70% of it from China today.”


Ultimately, the Air Force objected, calling the proposed mill a “significant threat” to national security. “It wasn’t clear that they could actually identify the specific risks,” Mr. Burgum counters, but the project became “a complete no-go.” He agrees security comes first, yet he’s irked by ad hoc decision making on investment. “If we can’t stop a corn plant from spying on an Air Force base, then we have some big issues,” he says. “This is not like an embassy, where you can’t see what they’re bringing in, in the diplomatic pouches.”


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Not that Mr. Burgum is a dove on China. He says Beijing’s confrontational approach to the U.S. fits “the definition of a cold war, unless we’ve changed what it is,” with “military aircraft dodging each other” and “spy balloons coming over the country.” He witnessed its intellectual-property theft firsthand in 1989. Great Plains was selling its system for $5,000 a module, Mr. Burgum recalls, and only in North America. After getting a tip during a trip to China about a market selling software, he showed up and was told he could buy his own product “on a 5¼-inch floppy for $1.”


Like many in tech, Mr. Burgum has a futurist’s optimism, and not only about fracking. He’s bullish on artificial intelligence. The people online who are calling for a pause on AI research must be in “the 40% of the social-media accounts that are Chinese bots,” he jokes. “Of course they want us to slow down, right? We have a lead.” He’s already asked his cabinet whether state agencies could be more productive using free AI chatbots that can code or “write your first draft of everything.”


The governor cites impending medical breakthroughs while explaining why he signed a law to shift new public employees to a defined-contribution retirement plan, akin to a 401(k). “That was a huge lift,” Mr. Burgum says, but states that don’t follow are heading toward bankruptcy as lifespans rise. “The advances that are coming in the next 15 years—we’re going to eliminate entire disease classes,” he says. “Every actuarial table in the country is off.” If so, it’s a problem for Social Security, too, though he deflects a question about whether that’s on his agenda.


As for the culture wars, Mr. Burgum is a constitutional conscientious objector. “They have nothing to do with being president of the United States,” he says. “The 10th Amendment is very clear about what the federal government’s role is.” (It says: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution . . . are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”)


Mr. Burgum’s GOP rivals are pitching a federal abortion ban at 15 weeks or earlier, but President Burgum wouldn’t sign that: “What works for North Dakota is not going to work for California and New York. It doesn’t even work for Minnesota.” As governor he approved a prohibition on most abortions, with exceptions through six weeks, but he frames it as overriding a strict 2007 trigger law and moving “to a spot that was more reasonable.”


In a similar vein, he says, “I vetoed a book-banning bill.” S.B. 2360 would have subjected to misdemeanor charges any public librarian who “willfully displays” a book that “contains explicit sexual material that is harmful to minors.” If parents have a complaint about a graphic novel that’s overly graphic, he says the answer isn’t some library “book police” but talking to the librarian or the city board. “These are hot topics,” Mr. Burgum acknowledges. “But we’re running a race to get the federal government focused on the stuff that matters.”


The question is whether GOP voters nowadays simply have a different view of what matters. So far, the 2024 primary is a two-man race. Donald Trump, at 53% in the polls, won’t let go of his fantasy that the last election was stolen, and being booked on criminal charges only seems to solidify his support. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a distant second at 21%, is battling wokeness with the vigor of Sherman’s march to the sea. The old tea-party movement cared about the 10th Amendment. Does today’s Republican Party?


Mr. Burgum is betting yes, and although the farm in Arthur isn’t on the line this time, his campaign says he has put down a little over $10 million. “I’ve always had my own skin in the game,” he said recently. “I’ve always felt like I would never ask others to invest if I weren’t always investing.” This week he hit 40,000 donors, a requirement to make the first debate. “It’s a goofy rule,” he says. “It’s just a question of, what’s your tolerance for cost of acquisition?” Mr. Burgum, who can afford to think that way, offered $20 gift cards for $1 contributions.


The next hurdle is clearing 1% in a series of polls, but Mr. Burgum is spending on TV ads, too. On Tuesday he posted 6% in New Hampshire, tied with Chris Christie. Maybe Iowans will take a liking to a relative local. For a debate held 15 months from Election Day, the more the merrier. But as the months wear on, Mr. Burgum’s strategy will depend on the same variable as every other Republican not named Donald: whether half the GOP finally decides Mr. Trump gives Democrats more political opportunities than he’s worth—and enough of them can agree on an alternative.


“I think there’s a growing understanding that the interesting role that President Trump is playing,” Mr. Burgum says, “is that he’s the one that is actually holding the Biden facade together.”


Mr. Peterson is a member of the Journal’s editorial board.

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