A chimney sweep-turned-software billionaire launched an unlikely bid for the White House, declaring that in his state, “woke” is “what you did at 5am to start the day”.
Doug Burgum, the Republican governor of North Dakota, became the latest candidate to enter the 2024 presidential race, with a sarcastic remark aimed at rivals.
The 66-year-old staked out a position for himself as the candidate of “small-town America” and its values.
He described how he had once worked as a chimney sweep and clearing out grain silos, before “literally betting the farm” by selling his family’s land to start a software business.
That turned into a billion-dollar company, based in North Dakota, which he sold to Microsoft.
‘Small-town values at the core of America’
Launching his campaign in Fargo, near his small home city of Arthur, Mr Burgum said that the next US president should be “someone who’s held jobs where you shower at the end of the day, not at the beginning”
He added: “It shouldn’t be a surprise that small-town values have guided me my entire life. 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.”
In his speech and campaign video, Mr Burgum called for people to listen to each other “with respect” rather than “anger, yelling, infighting”.
He said: “I grew up in a tiny town in North Dakota. ‘Woke’ was what you did at 5am to start the day.”
However, Mr Burgum said that the economy, rather than culture wars or any other issue, should be the overwhelming priority.
Unlike many Republican governors, he has called for his state to achieve carbon neutrality by the end of the decade. His strategy involves improving carbon capture technology rather than any limits on fossil fuels.
Mr Burgum was elected governor in 2016 and re-elected in a landslide in 2020.
He is not yet widely known outside North Dakota and faces an immense challenge in a field dominated by Donald Trump.
Ron DeSantis, the second-placed Florida governor, is much better known to Americans than Mr Burgum.
However, his status as governor of a rural state who is steeped in energy policy is expected to benefit him in Iowa, the first state to vote in the Republican nomination contest.
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