Trump-backed Rep. Kelly Armstrong wins GOP primary for North Dakota governor over Doug Burgum’s pick

Bill Clark

Rep. Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, who was backed by former President Donald Trump, won his state’s Republican nomination for governor, defeating Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller, The Associated Press projects.

Gov. Doug Burgum, who decided against seeking a third term and has emerged as a potential running mate for Trump, had supported Miller as his successor. But Trump weighed in late last month with an endorsement for Armstrong, who was considered the favorite to win the primary.

“In Congress, Kelly strongly defended me through two SHAM Impeachments, and is 100% MAGA,” Trump posted May 30 on Truth Social.

The primary represented an unusual split between Trump and Burgum, who have become close in recent months. After he ended his own run for president, Burgum endorsed Trump and has emerged as a top contender to be his vice presidential pick.

Asked about their different preferences in an interview late last month on CNN, Burgum said North Dakotans were “so fortunate in our state [to] have two great candidates.”

“I’m supporting one; President Trump is supporting the other,” Burgum said. “But whoever wins that primary in about 12 days from now, North Dakota is going to have a great governor.”

After Tuesday's results, Burgum congratulated Armstrong and state Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak, who won the GOP primary for Armstrong's at-large seat, in a post on X. Trump and Burgum both endorsed Fedorchak.

"Congratulations to Kelly Armstrong and Julie Fedorchak on their hard fought primary victories! Competition is great for the Republican Party and our state is better for it," Burgum wrote. "Spoke with both Kelly and Julie tonight and we can count on them to stand with President Trump and provide strong conservative leadership for North Dakotans both in the Governor’s Office and in Congress."

Armstrong will face state Sen. Merrill Piepkorn, who was unopposed for the Democratic nomination, in the general election. North Dakota, a heavily Republican state, has not elected a Democratic governor since 1988. Burgum won re-election in 2020 by more than 40 percentage points.

Armstrong, 47, has represented North Dakota’s at-large congressional district since 2019. He previously was chair of the state Republican Party.

“Since we started, we’ve gone from one end of the state to the other,” Armstrong said of his campaign at a debate with Miller on May 30. “We’ve done over 100 media interviews, and we have got the opportunity to meet with thousands of North Dakotans across the state. And that won’t change when I’m governor. I just simply don’t know another way to do this job.”

Miller, 64, presented herself as a political outsider. Like Burgum, she had deep private-sector experience before she entered politics, having been CEO of a large electrical distributor. Burgum appointed Miller lieutenant governor in 2022, after her stint as his chief operating officer.

“Our country and our state have done so well with leaders who have business experience like Gov. Burgum and President Trump,” Miller said at last month’s debate. “We need another outsider and business leader in the governor’s office.”

Armstrong and Miller both campaigned as Trump loyalists. At their recent debate, held hours after a jury found Trump guilty on 34 felony counts in his hush money trial, both defended him.

“I used to do this for a living,” said Armstrong, a lawyer. “And I don’t know what the hell he got convicted of.”

Miller, like other Republicans, characterized the trial as a political prosecution.

“We would not have had any of these cases if President Trump was not seeking re-election,” she said. “This is typical politics, a strategy to keep him off the campaign trail.”