Abortion backers force out pro-life Democratic congressional candidate in N. Dakota

Cara Mund Cara Mund, who was crowned Miss America 2018, on Sept. 6, 2022, petitioned onto the ballot for North Dakota’s only U.S. House seat as an unaffiliated candidate. She supports legalized abortion. Pro-life Democratic candidate Mark Haugen said he “received pressure from many Democratic-NPL [Nonpartisan League] Party leaders and other activists on the far left” to withdraw from the race. | Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images

A pro-life Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in North Dakota has been forced out in favor of a politically unaffiliated candidate in favor of legalized abortion who is new to the race.

“Over the past several days, I have received pressure from many Democratic-NPL [Nonpartisan League] Party leaders and other activists on the far left to step away, since Cara Mund has entered the race,” Mark Haugen said Monday, according to the Bismarck Tribune. “Much of the far left’s concern is my pro-life position for which I have refused to compromise.”

Haugen said he will withdraw from the race, as he does not see a “viable path forward” to winning without the support of the Democratic-NPL Party, the North Dakota affiliate of the Democratic Party.

Haugen, a longtime paramedic, is a graduate-student adviser at the University of Mary, a Catholic university in Bismarck.

“I’m still in a state of shock. It’s kind of surreal as to what happened,” Haugen told CNA Sept. 7.

He said many supporters have called him since he ended his campaign. 

“It’s very heartwarming. There’s a lot of support,” he said. “I didn’t realize there would be this much anger out there about me dropping out because the party forced me out.”

The 60-year-old has served as the state treasurer of the Democratic-NPL party and ran for North Dakota state treasurer in 2020. In that race, he won 34% of the vote, the best showing for statewide Democrats.  

The Republican incumbent, U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, won his 2020 race with 69% of the vote. He also is a foe of abortion.

Cara Mund, a 28-year-old Bismarck native, is a graduate of Harvard Law School. She won the 2018 Miss America competition. In 2016, she interned for several months for Republican U.S. Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota.

On Aug. 6, Mund announced her intention to petition onto the ballot for North Dakota’s only U.S. House seat as an unaffiliated candidate. She has said her support for legalized abortion is one of the reasons she is running.

She needed 1,000 valid signatures by Tuesday to make the ballot and turned in 1,600 more than required, the political news site The Hill reported.

She commented on Haugen’s withdrawal.

“Mark’s decision to suspend his campaign could not have been easy,” Mund said in a statement to the Bismarck Tribune. “His willingness to step up for his party while also staying true to himself is something I admire greatly about him. I wish Mark the best as he continues to be a true leader in the ND Dem-NPL for years to come.”

Democratic-NPL Party Chairman Patrick Hart said that in his role he does not tell anyone what to do, but he supported Haugen’s decision to withdraw.

Haugen was nominated at the March convention of the Democrat-NPL Party and faced no opposition on the June primary ballot.

In a mid-August interview with KX News, he described himself as a “whole life” candidate who supports a mother and her baby after birth and throughout life. He backed expanding the child tax credit, Medicaid, and funding for child care programs.

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Haugen reflected on the situation that pro-life Democrats face. 

“About one in five Democrats consider themselves in that pro-life category,” he told CNA.

“A lot of people stay silent. They’re probably not as active as I am,” he said. “But they believe in social justice, they believe that good government can reduce abortion.”

While Haugen’s views were “well known” at the nominating convention, Hart said, in the party chairman’s view “the landscape has changed” after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which rejected the pro-abortion-rights precedent and returned the abortion debate to the states.

Hart said his party is not endorsing Mund.

Shelley Lenz, the party’s 2020 gubernatorial candidate, told political columnist Rob Port she was “disgusted” and “a little angry” by the move against Haugen by some party leaders, saying “they forced him out.”

Haugen is listed in the faculty and staff directory of the University of Mary. His biography says that his wife, Sharol, is a math and religion teacher at St. Mary’s Academy, a Catholic middle school in Bismarck. He is also a member of the Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus Honor Guard.

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His listing says he is at the University of Mary because he has “a passion for serving students” and because “I enjoy living and practicing the Benedictine values.”

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