By Joseph Ax
(Reuters) -North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum entered the 2024 Republican presidential race on Wednesday touting the small town values he would bring to Washington and expanding a crowded field of candidates led by a big city mogul, Donald Trump.
Burgum, 66, a former software company executive, is largely unknown beyond his state, and he will begin his White House bid well behind rivals such as Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Burgum filed paperwork for his candidacy with the Federal Election Commission before launching his campaign in Fargo, near his small hometown of Arthur, North Dakota.
He stressed his humble origins and said the next U.S. president should be “someone who’s held jobs where you shower at the end of the day, not at the beginning.”
“It shouldn’t be a surprise that small town values have guided me my entire life,” Burgum said. “Small town values are at the core of America. And frankly, big cities could use more ideas and more values from small towns right now.” Burgum’s speech Wednesday echoed a campaign-style video released before his announcement, describing his ascent from a young boy in rural North Dakota to the founder of a billion-dollar software company and a governor who has cut red tape and taxes.
His personal wealth, derived from selling his startup to Microsoft more than two decades ago, could help fund advertising aimed at raising his national profile.
Burgum’s low-key style provides a sharp contrast with the pugnacious former President Trump. In the video, entitled “Change,” the governor argues that listening to each other “with respect” is how to solve America’s problems, rather than “anger, yelling, infighting.”
While he doesn’t name other candidates, he also appears to distance himself from DeSantis’ “anti-woke” culture wars.
“I grew up in a tiny town in North Dakota,” Burgum says. “‘Woke’ was what you did at 5 a.m. to start the day.”
His announcement event was being held in Fargo. Like many other Republican governors, Burgum has signed laws banning abortion and restricting transgender rights, including gender-affirming care for minors, although the measures go unmentioned in the video.
Unlike many Republican governors, however, Burgum has called for North Dakota to achieve carbon neutrality by the end of the decade, although his strategy involves improving carbon capture technology rather than any limits on fossil fuels.
The race to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the November 2024 election added two other candidates this week: former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Vice President Mike Pence.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax and Doina Chiacu;Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Mark Porter and Sharon Singleton)
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