There will be no Democrat running against incumbent Republican Rep. Kelly Armstrong for North Dakota’s sole congressional seat in November. Mark Haugen, the former nominee, announced earlier this month that he would withdraw from the race due to pressure from top members of his party to make room for Cara Mund, a 28-year-old former Republican congressional intern and 2018 Miss America who officially qualified for the race as a pro-abortion access independent last week.
The details of Mund’s late bid surprised political observers, especially when prominent North Dakota Democrats suggested their candidate drop out as she entered the race.
Some of those same state Democrats say her candidacy reflects a more important reality: Since Roe v. Wade, the politics of abortion access have roiled races even in deeply conservative parts of the country, and abortion supporters appear increasingly galvanized, while abortion opponents’ potential electoral victories, in Kansas and elsewhere, have been limited.
The big question is what will happen in November, when Democrats hope to protect their precarious House and Senate majorities from a resurgent GOP.
A victory for political newcomer Mund over the well-funded, two-term Armstrong – switching the seat from a Republican to an independent – would be seen as a victory, even though state Democrats have said they will not support her.
In early August, 59% of voters in historically Republican Kansas voted against an amendment to the state constitution that would remove abortion rights. In Alaska, Mary Peltola, who campaigned on abortion access, became the state’s first Democrat in decades, defeating former governor and Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
Then, in another special election, this time for New York’s 19th Congressional District, a longtime swing seat, Democrat Pat Ryan defeated Republican Marc Molinaro by campaigning largely on pro-abortion rights issues.
On September 3, two months before the midterm elections in November, Haugen had a startling Saturday morning breakfast meeting with Hart.
Haugen said he received a call from North Dakota’s former Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy a few hours later. He was contacted shortly after that, he said, by the state’s former Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad.
Heitkamp, on the other hand, stated that Mund “represents a new generation of leaders who do not want to be defined by their allegiance to the two-party system.” This is “new generational energy,” not just in North Dakota, but across the country.”
Haugen said his own conversations with some of North Dakota’s top Democrats included mentions of Alaska and Kansas, where the party saw convincing evidence of how the abortion issue was motivating voters even in deep-red states.
Haugen also stated that Evan McMullin, a former Republican congressional staffer who supports abortion access, was considering running as an independent against Republican incumbent Mike Lee in Utah.
The North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party’s policy committee voted down a resolution in July calling for the party to withdraw support for Haugen’s candidacy due to his anti-abortion stance.
Many constituents brought up Haugen’s support for the Supreme Court overturning Roe and North Dakota’s resulting “trigger” law, which would ban nearly all abortions in the state, Hart said while traveling as the party chair over the past few months.
Mund told ABC that she sees a certain legislative data point as an inroad for her potential victory in deeply conservative North Dakota, where the GOP has held the at-large House seat since 2011. On the ballot in 2014 was a constitutional amendment on personhood, defining it as at the time of conception.
Mund recalls where she was when the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision reversed Roe after more than five decades.
The Harvard Law School graduate — who met the 1,000-signature threshold for listing on the ballot on Sept. 8, two days after she turned in more than 2,600 signatures to the North Dakota secretary of state — was preparing for the bar exam at home in Bismarck.