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Kelly Armstrong, North Dakota's lone congressman, runs for governor

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota's sole U.S. House member announced his candidacy on Tuesday for governor of the sparsely populated state, the day after Gov. Doug Burgum said he won't seek a third term.

Republican Rep. Kelly Armstrong is the first to formally announce a campaign in what is expected to be a competitive race among Republicans for the party's nomination. The state GOP will endorse a ticket in April, but candidates can run in the June primary, when voters will decide who advances to the November general election. Republicans have held the governor's office since 1992.

Armstrong, an attorney and former state GOP chairman, was first elected to the House in 2018 after serving six years in the state Senate.

“The short answer is I want to get home and start working — I miss people. I miss my friends. I miss my neighbors. I miss being in North Dakota, I really do,” Armstrong said in an interview. “Serving the state in Congress has been an absolute, the greatest privilege of my life, but I really want to come home. I miss my friends in the Legislature. I miss the people who are more interested in solving problems than finding some mediocre social media fame.”

North Dakota, population 784,000, is at a crossroads of how to continue to grow and diversify its economy, with workforce challenges and agricultural and energy issues facing the state, Armstrong said. He cited his knowledge of the state and federal government and background in the private sector, including oil and agriculture, helping him “advocate for and advance the things that are important for North Dakota.”

North Dakota's governor is elected on a joint ticket with a lieutenant governor, who presides over the state Senate and is first in line to the governor's seat. Armstrong said he hasn't made decision about a running mate, but he will “take a lot of advice from a lot of people about the best way to approach it.”

His announcement also opens up the state's sole House seat. Republican former state Rep. Rick Becker and Democrat Trygve Hammer, a military veteran, previously announced runs.

Armstrong won reelection to a third term in 2022 with over 62% of the vote against independent Cara Mund, an attorney and former Miss America. His House assignments include vice chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Burgum, who ended his bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination in December, endorsed former President Donald Trump for a second term. Hours after he announced he won't seek a third term, he campaigned for Trump with former Republican presidential rivals in New Hampshire. Trump has praised Burgum, leading to speculation about a possible role for Burgum in a potential second Trump administration; Burgum has called that talk hypothetical.

Republicans control North Dakota's Legislature and hold every statewide office and congressional seat. A Democrat hasn't won a statewide election since 2012.

North Dakota's next governor will take office in mid-December, weeks before the biennial Legislature convenes in January 2025.

New term limits voters passed in 2022 mean no future governors can be elected more than twice, though Burgum could have pursued a third and even fourth term.