Hoeven is mainly challenged by the political newcomer

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota’s quest for a third term in the highly conservative state hasn’t been nearly as smooth as his previous runs, but it was seen as a passing in Tuesday’s Republican primary.

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

Democrats backed Katrina Christiansen, an engineering professor at Jamestown University, for the Senate. She faces a largely unknown challenger in Tuesday’s elementary school, Fargo art and antiques dealer Michael Steele.

Hoeven, 65, hiccuped at the GOP convention in April when he narrowly won the GOP delegates’ endorsement over the leader of the party’s ultra-conservative wing. Bismarck Rep. Rick Becker painted Hoeven as a spendthrift, pro-government politician who had lost touch with his conservative base.

Hoeven countered by promoting his involvement in North Dakota’s economic development and stressing how he strongly opposes most of President Joe Biden’s policies. Hoeven received a video message of support from former President Donald Trump.

The endorsements of the convention guarantee candidates a spot on the ballots for the June primary and party support against all 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 collected the 300 signatures required for the ballot.

Republican contests for more than two dozen seats in parliament could help lure voters to the polls. GOP Gov. Doug Burgum, who doesn’t have to be reelected until 2024, donated more than $1.2 million ahead of Tuesday’s primary, mostly to a political action campaign that has focused on defeating Republican far-right candidates or those who are disagree with its spending initiatives and political goals.

A banker and former Democrat, Hoeven won his previous two terms in the Senate with more than 76% of the vote. He switched parties four years before a successful gubernatorial election in 2000. He is the only North Dakota governor to have won 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 ahead of Tuesday’s primary. Kuntz raised less than $5,000.

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

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Story updated to correct the spelling of Katrina Christiansen’s last name.

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