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Takeaways: How Trump’s possible VP pick shifted on LGBTQ+ issues as his presidential bid neared

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Republican Gov. Doug Burgum is little-known on the national stage but is now a top choice to be former President Donald Trump’ s vice presidential running mate.

The wealthy software entrepreneur has led North Dakota like a CEO. He’s championed business-oriented items such as income tax cuts and tech upgrades for state government, from cybersecurity to state websites. He has not been outspoken on social issues, even as the state’s Republican-led Legislature sent him a flurry of anti-LGBTQ+ bills last year. But after vetoing some of the bills in 2021 and 2023, he later signed most of them — around the same time he was preparing a 2024 presidential bid that fizzled within months.

Here are some takeaways on Burgum and his actions:

From small-town roots, Burgum became a wealthy executive

Burgum, 67, grew up in a tiny North Dakota town. After college, he led Great Plains Software, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2001 for $1.1 billion. Burgum stayed on as a vice president with Microsoft until 2007. He went on to lead other companies in real estate development and venture capital.

Burgum was largely known as a software executive and businessman before his upset campaign for governor in 2016 when he beat the state’s longtime attorney general in the GOP primary. He ran on “reinventing” government as the state grappled with a $1 billion revenue shortfall.

As governor, his focus was on economic, not social issues

Burgum campaigned in 2016 as a business leader and has governed with the same approach. He’s talked about “treating taxpayers like customers.” He brought some Microsoft veterans and other private-sector people into state government.

He’s pushed income tax cuts, cybersecurity enhancements, state website upgrades, cuts to state regulations and changes to higher education governance and animal agriculture laws. The planned Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library is one of his biggest efforts.

Burgum can talk at length about carbon capture, energy policy and other topics of interest to him. He frequently boasts of North Dakota’s underground “geologic jackpot” for carbon dioxide storage, and touts an approach of “innovation over regulation.”

People who have worked with him in the governor’s office say he’s extremely inquisitive and works long hours.

Burgum’s positions on LGBTQ+ issues changed

Democratic and Republican lawmakers who have worked with Burgum say it was disappointing to see him sign a sheaf of anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2023, and that he might have been eyeing the national stage as he did so. Burgum launched a bid for president in June 2023, about a month after the legislative session ended.

In 2021, Burgum vetoed a bill banning transgender girls from public schools’ girls sports. In early 2023, he vetoed a bill he said would make teachers into “pronoun police.”

But later in the 2023 session, as he prepared to run for president, he signed the slew of bills restricting transgender people, including a ban on gender-affirming medical treatments for kids and two sports bans similar to the bill he vetoed in 2021.

He also signed a book ban bill but vetoed a further-reaching one. Opponents said the bills went after LGBTQ+ literature.

Burgum also signed a bill that revised North Dakota’s abortion laws after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade. The state’s abortion ban is one of the strictest in the U.S. Burgum has not been outspoken on LGBTQ+ issues or abortion.

Burgum ended his presidential campaign in December 2023, having failed to gain traction. The next month, he said he wouldn’t seek a third term as governor.

Jack Dura, The Associated Press