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Trump, Burgum, Armstrong win North Dakota races

November 4, 2020 GMT
FILE - In this April 10, 2020, file photo, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum speaks at the state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D. Burgum will face Democratic gubernatorial candidate Shelley Lenz in the Nov. 3, general election. (Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP, File)
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FILE - In this April 10, 2020, file photo, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum speaks at the state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D. Burgum will face Democratic gubernatorial candidate Shelley Lenz in the Nov. 3, general election. (Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP, File)
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FILE - In this April 10, 2020, file photo, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum speaks at the state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D. Burgum will face Democratic gubernatorial candidate Shelley Lenz in the Nov. 3, general election. (Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP, File)

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — President Donald Trump and Gov. Doug Burgum posted lopsided victories Tuesday in traditionally Republican North Dakota. And voters rejected a proposal that would have allowed the Legislature review and approve citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. North Dakota’s top election official said unofficial early numbers indicate a record turnout for a general election, with more than 363,000 voters casting a ballot, or nearly 4% more than in 2016.

Here’s a look at what’s happening on Election Day:

PRESIDENT

Donald Trump eased past Joe Biden to take North Dakota. Trump was expected to roll in the reliably red state where he crushed Hillary Clinton four years ago, and neither man invested much time or energy in the state. No Democrat has carried the state since 1964, and Trump cemented his following in oil-rich North Dakota by committing strongly to the industry. He unveiled his “America First” energy plan in North Dakota four years ago aimed at spurring production of oil, coal, natural gas and other energy sources. Shortly after taking office, Trump burnished his appeal to the state’s conservatives by pushing through final federal approval of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline to move North Dakota oil to Illinois.

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GOVERNOR

Republican Gov. Doug Burgum has won a second term after a campaign that focused largely on his management of the coronavirus pandemic. Burgum defeated Democrat Shelley Lenz, a veterinarian running her first statewide campaign. Burgum benefited from an electorate that is strongly conservative, winning despite a state economy that’s been weakened by the coronavirus epidemic and where the spread of COVID-19 cases has been among the worst in the nation. Lenz said she believed the race would be closer due to the dissatisfaction she heard even among Republicans with Burgum’s handling of the virus. “It makes me sad that we didn’t break through that red wall,” she said. Burgum released a slick, upbeat three-minute video shortly after the race was called, one that had been clearly produced earlier. Standing alongside first lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum, the governor thanked voters and briefly addressed the pandemic. “The pandemic is challenging us every day, and these real challenges are also creating generational opportunities for improvement,: he said.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

Voters in North Dakota say they’re not interested in having the Legislature review and approve proposed constitutional amendments that citizens bring forward. They rejected a proposal in Tuesday’s election that some critics said amounted to giving legislators veto power over citizen initiatives. The Republican-controlled Legislature came up with the idea and put it on the ballot after several citizen-proposed amendments to the state constitution in recent years. Those included medical marijuana and a crime victims’ rights measure. Some legislators cited out-of-state money funding the proposals, especially the victims’ rights measure.

“It was clear voters didn’t want to give up their own rights, and hopefully, the Legislature gets the hint,” said Dustin Gawrylow, who headed a group that opposed the measure.

The group, called ProtectND, raised less than $5,000 to fight the measure, Gawrylow said. The campaign cash was used mainly for a few yard signs and gas money for Gawrylow to drive around the state, to talk to various groups and citizens.

Former GOP Gov. Ed Schafer also spoke publicly against the measure, which “helped a ton to defeat it,” Gawrylow said.

U.S. HOUSE

Kelly Armstrong, who spent part of his first term defending Trump during impeachment hearings, is returning to the House. The attorney, former state party head and state senator from Dickinson defeated Democrat Zach Raknerud, a retail manager from Minot running his first statewide campaign. Armstrong has strong ties to North Dakota’s oil industry. His father, Mike, is a longtime oil driller who has been a competitor and colleague of billionaire Harold Hamm, considered the godfather of North Dakota’s oil industry. Armstrong also is childhood friends with Tommy Fisher, whose North Dakota company in January received $1.3 billion to build a section of Trump’s signature wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

LEGISLATURE

Republicans kept control of all statewide offices, and bolstered their majorities in the Legislature, including toppling at least two longtime Democratic Senators. Republicans unseated Democratic Sens. John Grabinger, of Jamestown, and Larry Robinson of Valley City. Republicans went into Tuesday’s election with a 37-10 Senate advantage and a 79-15 edge in the House. Democrats appeared to make no gains in the House. Democratic incumbent Cory Mock clung to his Grand Forks seat by just 19 votes over Republican Cindy Kami, though a recount is possible. North Dakota State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler won a third term. It’s a nonpartisan office but the GOP issued a letter of support for Baesler, who pleaded guilty to drunken driving in March. Fargo Rep. Thomas Beadle won the contest for state treasurer, which is the smallest state office headed by an elected official, but the treasurer also sits on powerful state boards with the governor, including one that oversees state land management. Burgum supported Beadle for the office and helped bankroll his campaign. Beadle supported a move to dissolve the office in 2017. North Dakota Auditor Joshua Gallion won a second term. Gallion was first elected in 2016 and has carried out performance audits that have uncovered waste and misuse of resources at about twice the rate of his predecessor.

HIGHER EDUCATION

North Dakota voters defeated a measure to expand the state’s higher education board from eight to 15 members. The Legislature referred the measure last year, saying that expanding the current board would help with a growing workload. The 11 colleges and universities in the North Dakota University System are managed by the state Board of Higher Education. Burgum opposed the measure and bankrolled a campaign against it.

VOTERS SPEAK

Both Democrats and Republicans said they are worried about the spread of the coronavirus and it influenced their vote for governor.

Sean McLean, a 79-year-old retired university professor and Vietnam War veteran, voted for Trump four years ago and did so Tuesday — but not for Burgum. “His handling of the virus has been totally stupid,” McLean said. “I actually think he’s a Democrat.”

Becky Rath, 51, a food and beverage manager from Bismarck, said she is supporting Burgum despite increased criticism of his handling of the coronavirus. “I think he’s been doing as good as he could,” Rath said. “It’s a tough job.”

Meanwhile, several voters said they were confused over the proposal asking whether they want the Legislature to have the power to review citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. But not Rath, who said she understood the measure and called it legislative “overreach, and against what voters want.”

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Find AP’s full election coverage at APNews.com/Election2020