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Hoeven faces primary challenge from political newcomer

Hoeven faces primary challenge from political newcomer

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota U.S. Sen. John Hoeven’s quest for a third term in the highly conservative state hasn’t been nearly as smooth as his previous runs, but he’s seen as a shoo-in Tuesday in the Republican primary.

Hoeven faces Riley Kuntz, an oil field worker and poorly funded political newcomer.

Democrats endorsed Katrina Christenson, a University of Jamestown engineering professor, for Senate. She faces a largely unknown challenger in Tuesday’s primary, Fargo art and antiques dealer Michael Steele.

Hoeven, 65, hit a hiccup at the GOP convention in April when he narrowly won the GOP endorsement of delegates over the leader of the ultraconservative wing of the party. Bismarck state Rep. Rick Becker painted Hoeven as a big-spending, big-government politician who had lost touch with his conservative base.

Hoeven countered by touting his involvement in North Dakota’s economic development and highlighted how he fiercely opposes most of President Joe Biden’s policies. Hoeven got a video message of support from former President Donald Trump.

Convention endorsements guarantee candidates a place on the June primary election ballot and party support against any challengers.

After Becker promised he wouldn’t run in the primary, Kuntz, 39, decided to challenge Hoeven.

“I’m a big fan of term limits,” said Kuntz, who gathered the 300 needed signatures to be placed on the primary ballot.

Republican contests for more than two dozen legislative seats may help lure voters to the polls. GOP Gov. Doug Burgum, who doesn’t face reelection until 2024, donated more than $1.2 million ahead of Tuesday’s primary largely to a political action campaign that has focused on defeating Republican far-right candidates or those who do not agree with his spending initiatives and policy goals.

A banker and former Democrat, Hoeven won both of his previous Senate terms with more than 76% of the vote. He switched parties four years before a successful gubernatorial run in 2000. He’s the only North Dakota governor to win three four-year terms. He resigned in December 2010, in the middle of his third term, after winning his Senate seat.

Hoeven raised more than $3.2 million for his Senate campaign leading up to Tuesday’s primary, filings show. Kuntz raised less than $5,000.

On the Democratic side, Christenson raised just over $21,000, and Steele raised $2,100, Federal Election Commission filings show.

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