North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum talks about why he’s running for president
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, jumped into the 2024 presidential race earlier this summer, presenting himself to voters as a candidate ready to bring small-town values to the big stage.
“We need a leader who is clearly focused on three things: the economy, energy and national security,” Burgum, 67, said to cheers during an event held in Fargo, North Dakota.
Burgum founded the software company Great Plains Software in the 1980s. The company eventually went public and was acquired by Microsoft in 2001 for over $1 billion.
Burgum recently made headlines after he tore his Achilles tendon during a pick-up basketball game the night before the Republican primary debate in Milwaukee. Burgum participated in the debate despite his injury.
Burgum spoke to ABC News’ Linsey Davis about his life and career, and opened up about the moment he decided to run for president.
Linsey Davis: In a nutshell, who is Doug Burgum?
the government. Doug Burgum: Doug Burgum is a kid who grew up in a small town — Arthur, North Dakota, 300 people. What a great place to grow up. The streets weren’t even paved. I mean there was no mail delivery. Everyone, like I said, neighbors helping neighbors.
[I] He had the gift of two wonderful parents. My father was a WWII Navy vet, and [I] I learned courage and sacrifice from him, but he died while I was a high school student. My mom went back to work to help pay the mortgage and make ends meet, which was a great lesson from her, because she had wisdom, perseverance, and grace. amazing.
I grew up playing basketball at Arthur [with] My brother, my cousin. But after college, while working in Chicago, I saw my first computer and said, “Wow, this is going to change the world.” He literally bet that the farm would become the seed capital for a startup called Great Plains Software.
We went public, we did this amazing run as a public company, we were acquired by Microsoft and then I joined that team and helped build Microsoft down the path it is on today.
DAVIES: Obviously your roots run deep here in North Dakota. Rumor has it that your great-grandmother battled Lt. Col. George Custer and won? Any truth to that?
BURGUM: Yeah, it’s definitely — it’s written in North Dakota history. She was the postmistress at the Fort Lincoln Army post where Custer was stationed, and he tried to circumvent her responsibility. He took the American mail bags and opened them. She went into battle with him over it and won. It is also written that she was the first woman in the country to vote as a presidential elector in one of the early conventions, in the 1890s.
Davis: You also mentioned that you were an avid basketball player in high school, and you still play basketball now. Any regrets about that game of catch the night before the first debate?
Burgum: I have nothing, nothing at all. Sport has been very good for me. The amount of basketball I have played my entire life, ran track, played soccer, and played adult organized softball for over 30 years. In all the things — you know, climbing mountains, skiing the stuff that was supposed to kill me — I’ve never had an ankle or knee injury. So you’ve bypassed the mileage warranty. Like, I’m grateful for the blessing that I’ve had of being injury-free for so long, and I’m pretty confident that I’ll fully recover and get back to that. That won’t stop me.
DAVIES: How is Achilles doing now?
BURGUM: Well, today it’s doing great and much better. And I don’t know if you heard, I’m in the record books, because it was voted the best presidential debate ever by someone standing on one leg. I’m glad I have this thing, but I hope I never have to do this again.
DAVIES: Were you in a lot of pain while you were there?
Burgum: Absolutely, and talk to anyone who’s had an Achilles tendon dysfunction and they’ll tell you that.
DAVIES: What do you think is the most fair criticism of yours?
Burgum: I’m not as polished as some other politicians.
DAVIES: What do you say to critics who say it’s legally questionable, and I think that was the term, to give out $20 gift cards in order to get a $1 donation?
BURGUM: Well, first of all, that’s a completely inappropriate and false statement, because there’s nothing at all inappropriate about doing the promotion. You have to find a reason for someone to come and look, you know, come to your website and look. We have, you know, thousands of people who donated a dollar to get the $20 gift card who have come back and donated now, because they’ve engaged with us. It was a smart way to launch the campaign.
DAVIES: As governor, just last year you signed eight anti-transgender bills into law. North Dakota also has some of the strictest abortion laws of any state. How do you work across the aisle with people who may have very different views from yours on these and other issues?
BURGUM: Well, I think it goes back to the Tenth Amendment and let’s take the whole Dobbs thing. [v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization]Which I support and I brought it back to the states and that is where it belongs. This is not a federal responsibility, and what works in New York will never work in North Dakota, and vice versa. So some of these things should be left to the states, and that’s where they belong.
DAVIES: Do you remember the moment you said, “I’m going to run for president of the United States”?
Burgum: I do. I was here with my family and my children and I said, “I’m ready to make a decision today.” “I think you should say that out loud,” said eldest son Joe. “I think you should say that. You should just say that out loud.”
“We went for a walk. Here we were, you know, beautiful, walking through the tall grass and in the woods. And I said, and it was hard, and I said to my kids, ‘I’m Doug Burgum, and I’m running for president.’
And at that moment, you can’t make it up, an eagle flew right above us, like a big, beautiful bald eagle. We haven’t seen one all day. They don’t live here. There wasn’t any prop we had like, you know, standing in line for the bald eagle. But it literally flew 20 feet above our heads and we all felt chills when it happened.
I haven’t shared this with anyone, but I’m sharing it with you. Thanks for your question, Linsey.
DAVIES: Like I asked you, I felt a little bit choked up by this. What is that emotion?
BURGUM: Well, I think about my father, and I think about people like him. I think about it, because I think about – there are 80,000, just over 80,000 MIA, in the history of America. So, the decision to run is not about, you know, politics and hot-button issues. It’s about the security of our country, and the future of our children and grandchildren, so it’s a very big decision that I take very seriously. As I said, we took it from the heart of the service.
DAVIES: Your greatest strength?
DAVIES: Greatest weakness?
Burgum: Are you asking what my Achilles’ heel is?
Davis: [Laughs] Yes, very good.
Burgum: Apparently, my Achilles’ heel is my Achilles’ heel.
This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com