Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump listens as former...

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump listens as former Republican presidential candidate, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, speaks on stage during a campaign event in Laconia, N.H., Jan. 22, 2024. Credit: AP/Matt Rourke

WASHINGTON — While possible Republican vice presidential hopeful Doug Burgum travels the country campaigning for former President Donald Trump, the race to succeed him back home as North Dakota governor tops the list of contests voters will decide in statewide and local primaries on Tuesday.

Burgum decided earlier this year not to seek a third term following his unsuccessful run for the White House. That created an opening not just for his own job but also for the state’s lone seat in the House.

Republican Kelly Armstrong has represented the state in Congress since his election in 2018 but has opted to run for governor rather than seek a fourth term in Washington. His primary opponent is Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller, who seeks a promotion after serving 17 months as Burgum’s second in command.

Armstrong won the endorsement of the state Republican party at its April convention, which Miller did not attend. Meanwhile, Burgum has endorsed Miller to succeed him.

The winner of the Republican primary will face Democratic state Sen. Merrill Piepkorn of Fargo, as well as independent candidate Michael Coachman, a frequent statewide office-seeker who led an unsuccessful effort to recall Burgum in 2021. Republicans have held the governor’s office since 1992.

Five Republicans and two Democrats are running to replace Armstrong in Congress. Vying for the GOP nomination are former foreign service officer and military veteran Alex Balazs, former state Rep. Rick Becker, Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak, attorney and former Miss America Cara Mund and Sharlet Mohr of Williston, an unsuccessful candidate for the Williston Basin School Board in 2023.

Balazs narrowly won the state party’s endorsement over Fedorchak after a prolonged vote at the state convention. Fedorchak leads the field in fundraising and had the largest campaign war chest as of late May. She is the only candidate in the field to have previously won statewide office.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives to speak...

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a caucus night rally in Las Vegas, Feb. 8, 2024, as North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum watches. Credit: AP/Alex Brandon

In the Democratic primary, former teacher and military veteran Trygve Hammer faces frequent candidate Roland Riemers, who is simultaneously running for a seat on the Grand Forks School Board. Hammer has raised about $388,000 for the campaign and had about $141,000 in the bank as of late May.

Neither Riemers nor Mohr in the Republican primary has reported any campaign finance disclosures to the Federal Election Commission. A Democrat hasn’t won this seat since 2008.

Voters will also decide on a statewide ballot measure that would put an age limit on those running for the state’s U.S. Senate or House seats. People who would reach the age of 81 by the start of the final year of their term would be prohibited from appearing on the ballot.

Contested GOP primaries will be held in five state Senate and 10 state House districts. About half the seats in each chamber are up for election in November. Republicans have overwhelming supermajorities in both houses of the legislature.

Further down the ballot, Kirsten Baesler seeks another term as the state superintendent of public instruction. She faces three other candidates in the nonpartisan primary, including Republican Jason Heitkamp, a former state senator and cousin of former Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. The top two vote-getters will advance to the general election.

Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer is also up for reelection this year, but both he and Democrat Katrina Christiansen are unopposed in their primaries.

Here’s a look at what to expect on Tuesday:

PRIMARY DAY

The North Dakota state primary will be held Tuesday. The last polls close at 9 p.m. ET in the state’s westernmost counties, although polls in most of the state close at 8 p.m. ET. All polls close at 7 p.m. local time, but North Dakota spans two time zones.

WHAT’S ON THE BALLOT

The Associated Press will provide vote results and declare winners in 20 races. These include contested partisan primaries for governor, House, state Senate and state House, a nonpartisan primary for superintendent of public instruction and a statewide ballot measure on congressional age limits. Republican and Democratic primary contests appear on the same ballot, but voters may cast votes in only one party’s primaries.

WHO GETS TO VOTE

North Dakota does not have a formal statewide voter registration system. Any voter who meets the age, citizenship, residence and ID requirements may participate in the primary.

DECISION NOTES

The counties that usually have the biggest impact on North Dakota elections are Cass, home to Fargo and the most populous, and Burleigh, the home of the state capital of Bismarck. Grand Forks and Ward also have a sizable share of voters. A candidate with leads in these four counties would be difficult to overtake in a statewide contest.

In the gubernatorial race, Armstrong last won a competitive primary in 2018 for his first run for the House. He won that race with 56% of the vote, carrying Cass, Burleigh, Grand Forks and Ward.

For the at-large House seat, Republicans Fedorchak and Mund and Democrat Hammer all have previous statewide vote performances that may prove instructive. Fedorchak was unopposed in her 2022 Public Service Commission primary, but she won the general with 71% of the vote. Hammer received about 30% of the vote in his Public Service Commission race that year. Mund received 38% of the vote when she challenged Armstrong as an independent in 2022. She carried Cass County, but the bulk of those Fargo-area voters willing to vote for a pro-abortion rights independent against a GOP incumbent probably won’t be voting in this year’s Republican primary.

Other things to remember: The ballot measure on congressional age limits must receive at least 50% of the vote to pass. In the state House primaries, there are two winners per seat, and voters select up to two candidates.

The AP does not make projections and will declare a winner only when it’s determined there is no scenario that would allow the trailing candidates to close the gap. If a race has not been called, the AP will continue to cover any newsworthy developments, such as candidate concessions or declarations of victory. In doing so, the AP will make clear that it has not yet declared a winner and explain why.

North Dakota requires an automatic recount in primaries if the vote margin is 1% or less of the highest vote cast for a candidate of that office. Recounts for ballot measures are automatic if the vote margin is 0.25% or less of the top vote-getter’s vote total. A losing candidate may also request and pay for a recount if the vote margin is more than 1% but less than 2% of the highest vote cast for that office. The AP may declare a winner in a race that is eligible for a recount if it can determine the lead is too large for a recount or legal challenge to change the outcome.

WHAT DO TURNOUT AND ADVANCE VOTE LOOK LIKE?

In the 2022 primaries, North Dakota had a voting age population of about 585,000. That year, votes cast in the Republican Senate primary made up about 13% of the voting-age population, while votes in the Democratic primary made up about 4%. About 48% of votes in that election were cast before primary day.

As of Wednesday, a total of 27,271 ballots had been cast ballots before primary day.

HOW LONG DOES VOTE-COUNTING USUALLY TAKE?

In the 2022 primaries, the AP first reported results right at 9 p.m. ET as the final polls closed in the state. The election night tabulation ended at 1:10 a.m. ET with about 98% of total votes counted.

ARE WE THERE YET?

As of Tuesday, there will be 147 days until the November general election.

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