North Dakota, West Virginia Hold Primaries for Top State Offices

North Dakota is the second state this cycle to hold its gubernatorial primary entirely via mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic. Governor Doug Burgum (R) easily defeated his primary challenger Michael Coachman. When he announced his run for re-election, the Governor focused on the accomplishments of his first term including turning the state’s budget shortfall into a budget surplus, without raising taxes. Taking a page out of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s playbook, Governor Burgum invested heavily in the challengers of powerful Republican House Appropriations Chairman Jeff Delzer. The intraparty rivalry between Chairman Delzer and the Governor dates back to a budget disagreement last year. The Governor gave $1.85 million to the Dakota Leadership PAC which paid for negative ads against Delzer. The move appears to have worked as Delzer is currently losing by 7 points to Burgum-backed candidates Dave Nehring (R) and David Andahl (R).

Democrat Shelley Lenz did not have a challenger in the North Dakota gubernatorial primary and will face Governor Burgum in November. Lenz, a veterinarian and businesswoman, has released an economic platform that focuses on growing the state’s small businesses, making investments in research, and developing public-private partnerships. She has also pledged to create a North Dakota Health Insurance Co-Op to open access to local and out-of-state medical professionals while increasing access to telemedicine.

West Virginia voters had the option to vote absentee due to COVID-19 or to vote in person. Governor Jim Justice (R) secured his party’s nomination after being challenged by a handful of Republican hopefuls including his former Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher and former state delegate Michael Folk. This was the first time Republicans in the state had a chance to vote for Justice in a primary, as he won the gubernatorial race in 2016 as a Democrat, then switched parties months after his inauguration. The Governor will take on Kanawha County Commission Ben Salango (D) in November. Salango was endorsed by the AFL-CIO and over 25 labor unions on the way to his nomination while pledging to enact a new 12-week paid family law, to raise the statewide teacher salary, and to implement infrastructure improvements.  

Current Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) did not have a primary challenger. He will have to wait a bit longer to see which Democrat he will go up against in November, as State Delegate Isaac Sponaugle and Sam Petsonk are tied at 50% each with 98% vote counted as of 1:35AM this morning. Sponaugle focused his campaign on his experience and has pledged to remove the state from the lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. He also believes the current Attorney General has failed in negotiations and settlements with opioid manufacturers and will push for more money in settlements if elected. Petsonk has pledged to remove the state from the lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act, ensure the state’s minimum wage and hour laws are enforced, and to “aggressively litigate unconscionable” student debt. Either Dem will have an uphill climb in November against Attorney General Morrisey. In the event you are wondering: any candidate may request a recount within 48 hours of the county board of canvassers’ declaration of results. County board of canvassers meet on the fifth day after the election, excluding Sundays.

Some of the biggest news of the night came when Senate president Mitch Carmichael (R) lost his primary to Amy Nichole Grady, a teacher inspired by the 2018 strike for higher wages.


Want to know more about the North Dakota and/or West Virginia primary?  Email Meghan Holihan