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Governor Race: COVID comparison

Dr. Shelley Lenz and Governor Doug Burgum
Dr. Shelley Lenz and Governor Doug Burgum(KFYR-TV)
Published: Oct. 30, 2020 at 9:24 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Among many other issues and candidates, North Dakota voters are deciding who should lead the state out of the pandemic.

Governor Doug Burgum, R-N.D., is up for re-election, and Veterinarian and Democrat Shelley Lenz of Dickinson has been shaping her COVID response.

The Governor’s office has been in the spotlight more over the past year than others. And the race for who will have the office next is between one candidate who overcame political odds to win in 2016, and a challenger who voted for him four years ago.

Killdeer’s Shelley Lenz started as a neuroscience student, but would soon turn to animals; traveling the globe, establishing veterinary services for remote and politically hostile nations.

“It’s the same language whether it’s western North Dakota, or Nicaragua, or Pakistan. It’s just the human condition, safety, food security, being able to provide,” Lenz said.

Out of her Dickinson vet practice, Lenz works on everything from dogs to horses.The world has changed a lot since her campaign launch last winter. But she says her message of homegrown prosperity hasn’t changed.

“Leaders usually emerge in times of adversity. Especially rural leaders. And it’s really that sense of trust that I take so deeply. And so I’m still connected with the people. Everything I do is for the people,” she added.

The current occupant of the governor’s residence, Doug Burgum, is a former tech mogul. Despite losing at his party’s convention, Burgum made a push in the primary and eventually became the party’s nominee and governor.

And since then, has overseen the state’s pandemic response after calling a state of emergency in March. Saying at the announcement: “I wanna make sure when everybody hears ‘state of emergency’, that might provoke a certain image in their mind. But really, because North Dakota is so well prepared, we’d actually like to declare a state of calm.”

While state budgets are running ahead of forecast, businesses have remained open for months, and COVID testing continues to increase, the recent spike in numbers and the no-call on a statewide mask mandate, has put public pressure on the office.

“You could see a return to businesses being shut down. I know in some other cities, I think in Chicago today they announced that they’re suspending indoor dining, I mean which I think means you’re suspending dining in Chicago. I mean they got weather that’s pretty similar to ours as we head into winter. I mean, you’re going to have that. We in North Dakota have a choice. We have a chance to keep our kids in school, our businesses open, our economy going,” Burgum said during Thursday’s COVID media briefing.

During the closures in the spring, Burgum found himself fighting within his party over how long the closures should be in place. Ultimately, the governor let the closures expire in May.

Whomever wins next week will have a heavy hand in reshaping the state during and after COVID.

Burgum has continued his policy of self-responsibility. Meanwhile, Lenz’s plan would create an incident-commander system, where an individual would oversee the response.

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