A one-time supporter of Gov. Doug Burgum is now gunning for his job this November.
“Doug Burgum is just not getting the job done, and remember I voted for him in 2016,” said Shelley Lenz, the Democratic-NPL candidate for governor.
Lenz runs a veterinarian clinic, holds degrees in chemistry and biology and a Ph.D. in neuropharmacology — and this November, she’s challenging Burgum for his spot, saying her background lends her the experience needed to better handle the pandemic.
“We need a unity of response. We have no unity of response. He calls it unity of command but his people that should be advising him are quitting on him,” Lenz said.
She recently made her own crisis management plan public. It centers on implementing a new structure of communication with an incident commander at the helm, but Lenz made clear she would be the final decisionmaker.
“If the incident commander can’t convince me, and I say, ‘No I really don’t think using $1.8 million of public money when we’re in crisis will solve this virus crisis, you need to convince the legislature then,'” Lenz said.
While Burgum has been reluctant to implement a mask mandate, Lenz says she’d take input from the incident commander, and act accordingly.
“If my incident commander suggested that and I thought it was based on sound reason, science and culture, yes I would,” Lenz said.
She also said she’d call emergency legislative sessions to address relief funding, increase access to testing and support paid family leave, among other proposals.
Meanwhile, months into the pandemic, Burgum has continued to ratchet up the risk level for some counties as recently as Wednesday’s press conference.
“Joining a number of those counties in yellow include Cass, Dunn, Emmons, McKenzie, Richland, Sargent, Stutsman, Ward,” Burgum said.
An April report found that 67 percent of North Dakotans approved of Gov. Burgum’s response to the pandemic.
While she is the Dem-NPL candidate, Lenz emphasized that she identifies as an independent.