Ryan Cunningham has spent a career as much outside of a studio as in it. Starting as a nighttime announcer and sports broadcaster at KOVC in his hometown of Valley City, ND, he moved to stations throughout the midwest with the same company, before becoming the voice of Delta State University sports in Cleveland, MS in 2000. He returned to Valley City, and spent 12 years there before coming to KNOX in 2012.
Ryan can be heard on KNOX from 12 PM to 3 PM weekdays, and also during local sports broadcasts. He is a two-time North Dakota Broadcasters Association "Teddy" award winner for best play-by-play coverage.
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9 April, 2018: The North Dakota GOP House primary is the latest difficult spot for Governor Doug Burgum to try to wiggle out of.
He has a three-card hand, and he gets to play one: Campbell, Armstrong, or pass.
State Senator Tom Campbell, who is appealing to voters after losing the race for Republican endorsement of his US House Campaign this past weekend, appeared on my show today, with a message about his primary challenge:
He's the outsider. His opponent, Senator Kelly Armstrong, who won the GOP endorsement at this past weekend's convention, is establishment.
Armstrong appeared on The Schmidt Show and countered, stating that both he and Campbell came to the state senate at the same time in 2013.
In a situation that will be quite the conundrum for voters, they may both be right, and Burgum may have the final say before June. That is, if he chooses (more accurately, if the party puts him under the light in a dark room and sweats him into choosing) to talk.
It is difficult to picture either of these candidates as "establishment". The last "establishment" candidate we had was Wayne Stenehjem, the last outsider was Burgum. Burgum was the rookie, Stenehjem clearly "established".
You probably hadn't heard of either Armstrong or Campbell until Kevin Cramer played Peek-a-Boo with the Senate race, which is probably what created this mess in the first place.
But Armstrong is a former Republican party chairman, and Campbell will use that to his advantage, if he's smart. And it appears he's smart, because he used it already with me today. It is an easy connection to make: Armstrong was rewarded by the party with a nomination to federal office for being the leader of the party.
Armstrong will counter that Campbell is not conservative enough, a reputation that just about every Republican senator owns right now with any hard-core conservative (and ND House Republican) after playing "Good Cop, Bad Cop" with House legislation over the years.
Those are the hands the candidates get to play, essentially one card a piece, unless they start digging into each other's voting record, something Armstrong supporters have begun to do with Campbell's voting record on gun ownership.
Boy, would an endorsement from the top Republican in the state help right about now.
This is why Campbell took such a beating in the opening moments after announcing his primary challenge. Doug Burgum will certainly be asked to endorse both of these candidates. That puts Republicans in an awkward situation, where the conservative vs RINO and east vs. west dirty laundry will all be dumped on the floor for sorting, and the voters get to sort.
BURGUM OPTION A: ENDORSE ARMSTRONG:
This is the smart play for Burgum, at least immediately. Burgum hijacked the party with a primary challenge once before, and, as a guy that is also not the most conservative in the group, endorsing Armstrong shows the GOP that Burgum has learned the art of getting along to go along, and will make his path to re-election a bit less bumpy two years from now.
BURGUM OPTION B: ENDORSE CAMPBELL:
Risky, because of the "less conservative" label and the fact that both Burgum and Campbell have ties to the Red River Valley, and Armstrong is an oil-country alumnus. However, endorsing a lawyer and passing the farmer will likely ruffle the feathers of ag producers and ag groups, and there is plenty of money in those pockets to also make re-election easy.......or difficult.
BURGUM OPTION C: PASS
Safer than B, not as good as A, and, frankly, the path I see the most likely. Burgum has, in my opinion, shown very little in the way of leadership outside of talking about addiction, building up downtowns and cutting university budgets. If he's the top Republican in the state, along with the top officer in the state, he had better have a direction for what voice he wants representing the state's interest in Washington.
Burgum doesn't have a lot of time. I am excited to see how this one plays out, and certainly a tantalizing appetizer for Cramer vs. Heitkamp in November. June matters.......again.