It's official: There will be a Republican primary for North Dakota's seat in the House of Representatives. That's what Tom Campbell decided after Saturday's state Republican Convention, and he filed nominating petitions Monday.
At the convention, fellow Republican Kelly Armstrong trounced Campbell, getting 847 votes to Campbell's 480. In North Dakota, the losers at the convention often concede to the winner, but Campbell said he still plans to proceed. Now, it appears voters will decide in June, with the winner facing Democrat Mac Schneider in November.
Campbell should concede and let Armstrong lead the party forward in the House race.
Why? Because the votes Saturday against Campbell, and the enthusiasm for Armstrong, indicate the temperature of the state's Republican voters. Conceding would be a sacrifice for Campbell, but would be for the good of the North Dakota GOP.
At the convention, Armstrong won 37 of the 47 districts. Campbell won eight.
Armstrong is from Dickinson, at the extreme western edge of the state. Campbell is from Grafton, on the eastern edge. Geographically speaking, it therefore seems reasonable they would split votes across the state.
Campbell lost 78 percent of the districts and struggled in familiar country, losing District 10 (Cavalier, Pembina and western Walsh counties), District 18 (a Grand Forks district) and District 42 (the UND area). Yes, he won big in District 19 (Grafton) and won two districts in and around Grand Forks. But to give credence to a continued run, he needed better numbers in eastern North Dakota.
Campbell came into the convention on a controversial note, having paid the way for some delegates to attend the convention. The Associated Press, Forum News Service and a party field director all reported it may have been dozens, but because delegates were given a chance to make reimbursements before their names were made public, the exact number isn't known.
Technically, it is allowed, but it's viewed by some as attempting to buy votes. That could have been a factor in Saturday's results, and the issue could resurface.
Campbell's campaign has been personally funded. Through 2017, three-quarters of the approximately $1 million raised had come from Campbell himself. It seems to indicate a lack of interest outside of his campaign.
All of this bodes poorly for the Republican Party, which now will deal with a primary fight that could cast a negative light on the winner. It will drain war chests, and the bloodied winner must face a formidable and quality candidate - Schneider - in November.
Campbell has spent a fortune touting himself as a candidate for national office, first for the Senate and now for the House. He has dominated the TV airwaves with his message and he blanketed the streets near the convention with campaign signs, but still lost big. If he's spending his own money, he's got more dollars than sense. He's a better businessman than that.
Armstrong is the stronger candidate. For the sake of his party, Campbell should step aside and let Armstrong run without a primary fight.