Douglas James Burgum (born August 1, 1956) is an American businessman and politician serving since 2016 as the 33rd governor of North Dakota.[1][2] He is among the wealthiest governors in the U.S., with an estimated net worth of $1.1 billion.[3] A member of the Republican Party, Burgum was a candidate in the 2024 United States presidential election.[4]

Burgum was born and raised in the small town of Arthur, North Dakota. After graduating from college in 1978, and getting an MBA in 1980, he mortgaged inherited farmland in 1983 to invest in Great Plains Software in Fargo. Becoming the company’s president in 1984, he grew Great Plains into a successful large software company.[5] Burgum sold the company to Microsoft for $1.1 billion in 2001. While working at Microsoft, he managed Microsoft Business Solutions. He has served as board chairman for Atlassian and SuccessFactors. Burgum is the founder of Kilbourne Group, a Fargo-based real-estate development firm, and also is the co-founder of Arthur Ventures, a software venture capital group.

A lifelong resident of North Dakota, Burgum entered the Republican primary in the 2016 North Dakota gubernatorial election with no political experience. He upset longtime Attorney General and Republican-endorsed candidate Wayne Stenehjem in the primary election, and defeated Democratic nominee Marvin Nelson by a landslide in the general election. He was reelected by a wide margin in 2020.[6] In June 2023, Burgum launched a campaign for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. He ended his candidacy in early December.[7]

Early life and education

Burgum was born on August 1, 1956, in Arthur, North Dakota, where his grandfather had founded a grain elevator in 1906.[8] He is the son of Katherine (née Kilbourne) and Joseph Boyd Burgum.[9] He attended North Dakota State University (NDSU) to earn his undergraduate degree in 1978. During his senior year at NDSU, he applied to the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He also started a chimney-sweeping business. “The newspaper wrote a story about me as a chimney sweep”, he later recalled; it “ran a photo of me sitting on top of an icy chimney in below-freezing weather in Fargo. The story made the AP wire service. I was later told it caused quite a stir in the Stanford admissions office: ‘Hey, there’s a chimney sweep from North Dakota who’s applied.'”[10]

He was accepted to study business at Stanford. While there, he befriended Steve Ballmer, who became CEO of Microsoft. During his last year at Stanford, Burgum “spent the whole final quarter on a project team with Ballmer.”[10] He received his MBA from Stanford University Graduate School of Business in 1980. Burgum then moved to Chicago to become a management consultant with McKinsey & Company. He later received honorary doctorates from North Dakota State[11] in 2000 and from the University of Mary in 2006.[12] In 2009, Burgum was “urged to apply” for the position of president of North Dakota State University, but in 2010 he was passed over for Dean Bresciani.[13]

Business career

Great Plains Software

In March 1983 Burgum mortgaged $250,000 of farmland to provide the seed capital for the accounting software company Great Plains Software in Fargo, North Dakota.[8][14] He became the company’s president in 1984 after leading a small group of family members in buying out the rest of the company. During the 1980s, Fortune magazine often ranked Great Plains Software among the nation’s top 100 companies to work for. Burgum grew the company to about 250 employees by 1989 and led it to about $300 million in annual sales and a 1997 IPO, after using the Internet to help it expand beyond North Dakota.[15] In 1999 the company acquired Match Data Systems, a development team in the Philippines.[16] In 2001 Burgum sold Great Plains Software to Microsoft for $1.1 billion.[17] He has said he built the company in Fargo because of its proximity to North Dakota State University, which acted as a feeder school, in order to employ its stream of engineering students.[18]


After the sale, Burgum was named Senior Vice President of Microsoft Business Solutions Group,[12][19] the offshoot created from merging Great Plains into the corporation.[11] At Microsoft, he was responsible for making enterprise apps a priority.[20] In 2005, Burgum expressed interest in stepping down as senior vice president to become Microsoft Business Solutions chairman.[21] But in September 2006, he told journalists that he planned to leave Microsoft entirely by 2007.[22] He was replaced by Satya Nadella; Nadella has said Burgum inspired him “to find the soul of Microsoft”.[23]

Investment firms

In 2008 Burgum co-founded Arthur Ventures, a venture capital company that invests in businesses involved in technology, life sciences, and clean technologies.[24][25] The group began operation with a $20 million fund and primarily invested in companies in North Dakota and Minnesota.[26] By 2013 it had expanded its operations into Nebraska, Missouri, Arizona, and Iowa.[26] Burgum is also the founder of the Kilbourne Group, a real-estate development firm focused on Downtown Fargo.[27][28] In 2013 Burgum created plans to build the tallest building in Fargo—a 23-story mixed-use building—to be named either Block 9 or Dakota Place.[29] The building was completed in 2020 as the RDO tower. [30] The company has also advocated for a convention center to be built in Downtown Fargo.[31] It has acquired and renovated many Fargo properties, including the former St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and the former Woodrow Wilson alternative high school.[32] Several of the companies he has invested in are in Fargo.[17][33]

Board work

Burgum has served on the advisory board for Stanford Graduate School of Business[12] and was on the board of SuccessFactors during the 2000s, becoming its chairman from 2007 till the 2011 sale of the company to SAP. In 2012 he became the first chairman of the board for Atlassian, after it expanded from its initial board of three members (none of whom served as the official chair).[34] During 2011 and 2014, he twice spent several months as the interim CEO of Intelligent InSites,[12] a company for which he has served as the executive chairman of the board since 2008.[25] That year he also became a member of Avalara’s board of directors.[35]


Burgum is a philanthropist and has supported philanthropic causes such as the Plains Art Museum.[36] In 2001[37] he donated a refurbished school building he had acquired in 2000 to North Dakota State University. It was named Renaissance Hall and became home to the university’s visual arts department, major components of the architecture and landscape architecture department and the Tri-College University office.[38] In 2008 Burgum started the Doug Burgum Family Fund, which focuses its charitable giving on youth, education and health.[12]

Political career

Early involvement

Burgum endorsed Republican Steve Sydness for one of North Dakota’s U.S. Senate seats in 1988.[39] He also supported the gubernatorial campaigns of Republicans John Hoeven and Jack Dalrymple in 2008 and 2012.[40][41]

Governor of North Dakota

In 2016, Burgum announced his candidacy for governor of North Dakota as a Republican. With no formal political experience, he lost the state Republican party’s gubernatorial endorsement to longtime attorney general Wayne Stenehjem, but defeated Stenehjem handily in the primary election two months later to claim the nomination. Burgum faced Democrat Marvin Nelson and Libertarian Marty Riske in the November general election and won with over 75% of the vote.[6] He was sworn in as governor on December 15, 2016, alongside running mate Brent Sanford.[42][43]

Uniquely among Republicans, Burgum has set a goal for North Dakota to become carbon-neutral by 2030. He plans to pursue this goal while maintaining a robust fossil fuel industry, through the use of carbon capture and storage technology to capture and sequester carbon dioxide in the state’s geologic formations. He supports the use of carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery, the process by which carbon dioxide is injected into depleted oil fields to boost production. He also supports agricultural practices that store carbon in soil.[44] The announcement of the goal sparked $25 billion in private sector investment, according to remarks he made at the annual meeting of the North Dakota petroleum council.[45]

Burgum meets with Commanding General of the Mississippi Valley Division in June 2018.

In 2018, Burgum and the North Dakota Department of Transportation established the Vision Zero project. Since then, traffic deaths in North Dakota have reached record lows.[46]

Burgum was reelected in 2020 with over 65% of the vote.[47][48]

On December 20, 2022, Sanford announced his resignation as lieutenant governor, effective January 3, 2023. Burgum chose Tammy Miller, his chief operating officer, to succeed Sanford.[49] On March 20, 2023, Burgum vetoed a bill to raise the state interstate speed limit to 80 mph.[50] During the 2023 legislative session, he signed a bill that exempts members of the North Dakota National Guard and reserve from paying income tax,[51] and another that provides over $500 million in tax relief.[52]

Burgum and other North Dakota officials have threatened to sue Minnesota over a law that would require the state’s electricity to come from sources that do not emit carbon dioxide.[53] Minnesota governor Tim Walz signed the bill on February 7, 2023.[54]

On January 22, 2024, Burgum announced that he would not run for a third term.[55] On February 21, he endorsed Lieutenant Governor Tammy Miller to succeed him.[56]

2024 presidential campaign

Burgum’s logo for his 2024 Presidential campaign

In March 2023, Burgum expressed interest in running for president in the 2024 United States presidential election.[57] On June 5, 2023, Burgum posted a video to his Twitter account teasing a “big announcement” for June 7.[58] He formally announced his campaign in The Wall Street Journal the morning of June 7, with the launch of a campaign website and a rally in Fargo scheduled to take place later that day.[59] After announcing, Burgum began campaigning with multiple stops in Iowa.[60]

Burgum was reported to have spent more money on advertisements than any other presidential candidate.[61]

Burgum expressed support for the U.S. Supreme Court‘s Dobbs decision. His support derived from the belief that abortion restrictions should be left to states to decide. Burgum pledged that as president he would not sign a national abortion ban. He said the president should not focus on culture war issues. According to Politico, Burgum sought to play up his stance as a hawk toward China by speaking of a cold war with China.[62]

On July 10, 2023, Burgum began offering $20 gift cards for a donation of any amount to his primary campaign. A spokesman for Burgum acknowledged that this was an attempt to reach the threshold of individual donors required to participate in the first Republican primary debate.[63] The scheme was successful, and on July 25, Burgum qualified for the debate after also meeting the polling threshold.[64] Despite its success, the scheme was ridiculed on social media, with some users declaring that they had donated $1 to Burgum and $20 to Joe Biden‘s reelection campaign.[65][66] Federal election officials have not said whether this and similar fundraising by other candidates is illegal.[67] Burgum also qualified for the second debate, held on September 27.[68] Burgum failed to qualify for the November 5 debate in Miami.[69]

On December 4, Burgum announced he was suspending his campaign, citing frustration with the RNC’s high threshold of donations and polling to qualify for debates.[70][71]

Post-presidential campaign

During his campaign, Burgum said he would not accept the vice presidency or a cabinet position if he was not nominated for president, so he was widely expected at the time to seek a third term as governor in the 2024 North Dakota gubernatorial election.[72] On January 22, 2024, he announced he would not seek a third term as governor of North Dakota.[73]

Before the Iowa caucuses, Burgum endorsed former President Donald Trump.[74] Afterward, he began campaigning for Trump, who praised Burgum and said he wants him to be an important member of his next administration.[75] Later, in an interview, Trump said Burgum would be “very good” as vice president, but reiterated that he had not yet made any decision about his running mate.[76] Burgum spoke on behalf of Trump at the North Dakota caucuses.[77]

Political positions

Burgum has made critical comments about Joe Biden and his performance as President of the United States on Facebook and in public messages.[78]


Burgum supports the fossil fuel industry, especially in the Bakken region of western North Dakota.[79] But he also signed a bill to create clean energy sustainable for the state on April 26, 2021.[80] Burgum supports the Dakota Access Pipeline.[81]

Burgum has said that American energy independence is an issue of national security. He has derided what he called a “full-on assault of liquid fuels in this country” and has regularly criticized Biden’s push for more electric cars for increasing U.S. reliance on Chinese-made car batteries. His solution is to open up Bureau of Land Management land for energy-related activities, such as rare earth metal mining and oil and natural gas drilling. Burgum has also promised to make North Dakota carbon neutral by 2030, and although he has said he will loosen regulations for the gas industry, he also said he is still committed to clean energy projects.[82]


In April 2023, Burgum signed a near-total ban on abortion in North Dakota.[83]

While campaigning for president, Burgum said he would not sign a nationwide abortion ban, preferring that states settle the matter themselves.[84] He supported the Supreme Court decision Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.[85][86]

Gun rights

Burgum received an A grade on gun issues from the NRA Political Victory Fund and signed numerous laws that give easier access to firearms.[87][88] He has touted his love of hunting.[89]

National security

Burgum has deployed the National Guard to the southern border with Mexico numerous times.[90] In April 2022, he and 25 other governors created the American Governors’ Border Strike Force to help each other with defense on the border against illegal immigration and human trafficking.[91] Burgum argued that energy independence is key to fending off China and Russia.[92]

During the 2024 Republican debate in Milwaukee, Burgum expressed concern about China, claiming it is America’s “number one threat” and that the U.S. should put “anti-warship missiles in Taiwan“.[93] During campaign stops, Burgum has expressed disdain for President Biden’s handling of foreign aid to Ukraine and his hostage deals with Iran.[94] He also blames a combination of Biden and Iran for the October 2023 Hamas attack on Israel.[95]


In 2019 Burgum signed legislation to develop a central cybersecurity operations center for the state’s network of over 250,000 users and 400 state and local government entities under the Executive Branch’s IT Department – North Dakota Information Technology (NDIT).[96] [97] Under Burgum’s direction, NDIT also began a Multi-State Security Operations Center to facilitate threat intelligence sharing and coordinate cybersecurity operations between member states.[98] In 2023, Burgum signed into law House Bill 1398, requiring cybersecurity education for all K-12 Students, making North Dakota the first state with a statewide cybersecurity education requirement.[99]

LGBT rights

In July 2020, Burgum called the 2020 Republican platform “divisive and divisional” on LGBT issues.[100] He signed numerous veto-proof bills sent by the North Dakota Legislative Assembly in its 2023 session that some have called “anti-trans“, including a near-total ban on gender-affirming care for minors.[101][102][103][104]


On November 12, 2021, Burgum signed a law banning the teaching of critical race theory in North Dakota K-12 schools.[105]

During the first Republican primary debate in Milwaukee, Burgum spoke of his belief that federal regulations are unhelpful to schools and that red-tape regulations harm the innovation of teachers.[106]

Personal life

Burgum married his first wife, Karen Stoker, in 1991. They had three children before divorcing in 2003.[107] In 2016, Burgum married Kathryn Helgaas.[108][107] As first lady of North Dakota, Kathryn Burgum champions the Recovery Reinvented program on addiction and recovery.[109]

Electoral history

2016 North Dakota gubernatorial election[110]
RepublicanDoug Burgum and Brent Sanford 259,863 76.5
Democratic–NPLMarvin Nelson and Joan Heckaman65,85519.4
LibertarianMarty Riske and Joshua Voytek13,2303.9
Total votes339,601 100
2020 North Dakota gubernatorial election[111]
RepublicanDoug Burgum and Brent Sanford (incumbent) 235,479 65.8%
Democratic–NPLShelley Lenz and Ben Vig90,78925.4%
LibertarianDuWayne Hendrickson and Joshua Voytek13,8533.9%
Total votes357,659 100%


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External links

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Republican nominee for Governor of North Dakota
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