A standing ovation from a few hundred people greeted Doug Burgum as he entered the spotlights at The Stage at Island Park Thursday.
The Kilbourne Group founder and chairman and North Dakota State alumnus formally announced his Republican campaign for North Dakota governor, citing his experience and expertise in running various software and business ventures like Great Plains Software, a company Burgum sold to Microsoft in 2001 for $1.1 billion.
Burgum also touted his “skills that are uniquely relevant to this point in time” where technology and innovation are evolving, such as storage, gigabit internet, sensors and mobility. He also likened a governor who doesn’t adapt to improving technologies to driving straight on a curving road.
“The world is taking a sharp turn driven by these technologies,” Burgum said.
Burgum, a native of Arthur, N.D., grew up on a farm and received a degree in university studies from NDSU in 1978 and a master’s in business administration from Stanford University Graduate School of Business in 1980. He was 1976-77 student body president as well as a cheerleader.
In his announcement, Burgum emphasized his decision to stay in North Dakota and grow a business after joining Great Plains Software in 1983.
“I don’t know who can believe more in the power of what North Dakota can do than I can,” he said, discussing the “encouragement, commitment and community” of employees and friends he made at Great Plains Software at a time when North Dakota’s young people were leaving the state for jobs elsewhere.
Burgum also highlighted his family heritage in the state, from his great-grandparents who doctored at Fort Lincoln to his mother, Katherine Kilbourne Burgum, who was dean of NDSU’s College of Human Development and Education from 1972 to 1980.
NDSU’s Family Life Center is named in honor of Katherine Kilbourne Burgum.
Burgum said he doesn’t “want to be a politician,” or one who “demeans” and divides others with different ideas.
He said he plans to run as a Republican at the state convention April 1-3 at Fargo’s Scheels Arena and also at the state primary election June 14 in Bismarck.
Burgum said his decision to participate beyond the convention is not “out of any disrespect” for the process or election coordinators but to make himself available to voters outside of Fargo’s region on the extreme eastern edge of the state.
“I don’t have any expectations that I will win the convention,” he said.
North Dakota attorney general Wayne Stenehjem and Rep. Rick Becker (R-Bismarck) are the only other Republicans on the ballot for November.
Sarah Vogel, former state agricultural commissioner, is the only Democrat considering a run at governor.
Burgum finished his announcement with his only campaign promise thus far: to ski at all four of North Dakota’s downhill ski resorts.