Gov. Doug Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford tiptoed around their intentions to run for re-election in 2020 when asked Thursday by The Bismarck Tribune editorial board.
"Brent and I love what we do, we're passionate about what we do, we're honored to have the opportunity to serve," the first-term Republican governor said. "I think if we're trying to read the tea leaves, I'd say we're leaning in."
"It'd be pretty early for an announcement," Sanford added with a chuckle.
Burgum, 62, is a wealthy former Microsoft executive who entered the 2016 race after former Gov. Jack Dalrymple announced his intention to retire.
He teamed up with Sanford, 47, an automotive dealer who was mayor of Watford City, and ran on a message of "reinventing" state government amid a $1 billion state revenue shortfall.
Burgum's entrance into the race set up a high-stakes June 2016 primary in which he and Sanford handily defeated longtime North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and his running mate, state Sen. Nicole Poolman, R-Bismarck, for the Republican nomination. Stenehjem was the endorsed candidate.
Burgum and Sanford then went on to sweep 76% of the statewide vote over the Democratic-NPL ticket of state Rep. Marvin Nelson, D-Rolla, and Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford.
They took office in December 2016 amid the chaotic Dakota Access Pipeline protests and a dreary state budget situation.
"I think the thing that which we both have found is that these are jobs that you can really make a difference in people's lives, and so it's easy to get up and get going in the morning and work late and it's easy to keep charging ahead," said Burgum, who held no elected office prior to governor.
"I think the more we work, the more we realize there's more to do, and I think that part's been quite energizing for us."
Burgum announced his previous run in January 2016.
The general election is Nov. 3, 2020. Republicans have held the North Dakota governor's seat since 1992.