North Dakota primary pits a traditional Republican against a rival skeptical of foreign engagement

Former state Rep. Rick Becker opposes most U.S. foreign aid; he expressed skepticism of aid to Israel in a recent interview but told JI he wants to continue it for now

In North Dakota, the race for the state’s sole House seat is set to play out as another battle between the Republican Party’s traditional wing and the Freedom Caucus-aligned insurgent right wing.

North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak faces former state Rep. Rick Becker, a plastic surgeon, in the primary. Fedorchak is defending U.S. engagement around the world, while Becker is pushing for scaled back U.S. involvement globally and opposes most foreign aid.

Fedorchak has backing from GOP leaders including Gov. Doug Burgum, former Gov. Ed Schafer, Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), Attorney General Drew Wrigley and a slew of state officials, as well as House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY).

Becker, meanwhile, is endorsed by various right-wing leaders at the federal level including Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Vivek Ramaswamy and Reps. Bob Good (R-VA), Chip Roy (R-TX), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Scott Perry (R-PA), Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Warren Davidson (R-OH), as well as former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). Becker challenged Hoeven in the 2022 North Dakota Senate race, first as a Republican and subsequently as an independent.

He significantly led Fedorchak in fundraising as of the end of March, with $828,000 raised throughout the campaign to her $449,000 raised. The primary election will be held on June 11.

One of the sharpest divides between the two Republicans is over foreign policy. Fedorchak is leaning into traditional conservative views on foreign policy in her campaign — expressing staunch support for continued U.S. assistance to Israel and Ukraine — while Becker favors dramatically cutting foreign aid.

“I think Israel needs to have the resources necessary to properly secure its safety and stability and help reinforce the stability in the broader region as a whole and the Middle East,” Fedorchak told Jewish Insider, adding that she’s “committed to ensuring the continuation of foreign aid to Israel.”

Speaking more broadly about the recent foreign aid bill, Fedorchak said, “We have to support our allies around the world and help them defend their democracies and stave off the aggressors that are anti-democracy and anti-American.”

She declined to weigh in specifically on the humanitarian Palestinian aid in the bill, but said that there need to be mechanisms to “ensure that it’s going to the right places to help the women and children” impacted by the war and will not ultimately be used against Israel.

She called Iran “the trouble source in the Middle East,” emphasizing the need to work with U.S. allies to crack down on Iran, its nuclear program and its regional influence, using “the strongest diplomatic and economic sanctions.”

Fedorchak said U.S. energy independence and production is a critical method to ensure that U.S. allies globally aren’t dependent on countries like Iran and Russia for their energy supplies.

She said stronger U.S. energy production could also stave off price fluctuation driven by Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing gulf states. She described herself as “very excited to join forces with President Trump and support his America First energy policy.”

When he spoke to JI, Becker said that he is “very much in favor of pulling foreign aid,” particularly from U.S. adversaries, but that “Israel should be the last place that we pull foreign aid” and he is “completely in favor” of continuing that aid in the near term. 

Ultimately, he continued, he wants to see Israel in “a position where Israel no longer even desires or needs aid from the United States.” He said Israel’s continued reliance on the U.S. may not be in Israel’s “best interest” because it “makes them susceptible to these changes that we have whenever we get a new administration.”

Becker’s support for continued near-term aid for Israel appears different from a view he has expressed in at least one other interview.

In a Feb. 17 interview with The Dakotan, Becker said that foreign aid “is a bunch of bullcrap for the most part.” 

“I respect Israel and I respect Israel’s right to defend itself completely but sending billions and billions of dollars to Israel — they are less in debt than we are. I understand they may even have a surplus, I don’t know,”  he said. “But the point is we’re in the hurt bay. There’s no place for us to be lending money, even to our friends, Israel.”

He said the U.S. should stop sending money ”to both Israel and Israel’s enemies” and “just maybe let the taxpayers keep it.”

Pressed on the apparent contradiction between those past comments and his position expressed to JI, Becker said he didn’t recall having made them and suggested they were taken out of context, insisting that he’s been consistent in his views.

“It’s crazy to me that we will go further into debt and then send money overseas… that is the starting point of the principle from where I’m coming,” Becker said. “But we have the conundrum that we have an ally which we have put into a precarious position because of funding her neighbors.”

When he spoke to JI, he said he supported the $14.3 billion in U.S. military aid for Israel passed by Congress, but said he would have preferred to see it voted on by itself and is not sure how he would have voted on the full Israel portion of the aid package.

Many of Becker’s congressional allies voted against the Israel aid bill.

He called humanitarian aid for the Palestinians, also included in the bill, potentially problematic, adding that he’s “very skeptical that the humanitarian aid money is going to where it’s supposed to go and isn’t just funding Hamas.” But he said he might be supportive of purely humanitarian support like food and medical supplies.

He also said cuts to the U.S.’ own defense budget must be in consideration, arguing that there’s “very likely inefficiency and waste,” and overall advocated for scaled-back U.S. military involvement globally.

Becker said he wants to avoid direct armed conflict with Iran, and that sanctions, whenever possible and effective, should be used. He said he’s more open to direct military action against the Houthis.

He said unequivocally that he opposes additional U.S. aid for Ukraine and that he’s “very reluctant” to support aid to Taiwan without receiving intelligence briefings on the nature of the threat and the planned “endgame.” He said he wants to see action to “calm the waters” and avoid a military conflict between China and Taiwan.

In the Dakotan interview, Becker further claimed the U.S. had “manipulated the Ukraine government since 2014,” when a pro-Western protest movement overthrew the Russian-backed government, and said that the U.S. may have “set up a situation that puts Russia in a position where they maybe feel like they have to do this.”

Addressing antisemitism at home, Fedorchak told JI that the current wave of antisemitism “just can’t be tolerated in our country.” 

She said that colleges need to “get tougher” on protests that are “getting out of hand,” and said that federal aid for colleges that support anti-Israel and anti-American agendas should be reexamined.

Becker said he sees fighting antisemitism as “much more of a state issue and maybe even much more of a local issue.” He said he’s concerned that powers granted to the federal government to fight antisemitism “can be used elsewhere… perhaps one day against us.” 

But he said that if he were running for a state office, like governor, he’d be pushing to “get some bulldozers and clear the encampment.” He said that leveraging education funding would be the limit of federal government action.

Told about the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides funding to religious institutions and nonprofits, Becker said it sounded like it is “outside of the scope” of proper federal authority and spending, and that the federal government should instead reduce taxes to allow people to choose to spend their money on increasing their institutions’ security themselves.

The two GOP rivals also view their priorities in Washington very differently. In the interview with JI, Fedorchak highlighted her background in business and public service, and said she believes she has “a lot of good experience” and “the passion for conservative solutions” to solve issues like energy policy and border security. Her in-state work has focused heavily on energy policy.

She said she’d be a “very serious-minded problem-solving member of Congress who’s ready to get to work on day one.”

Becker told JI he’s running for Congress because “the entire country is in a very precarious position,” warning that federal spending is “effectively sending America over a cliff.” 

He said he wants to work with lawmakers like those who’ve endorsed him to help rein in spending, describing himself as having been “very principled and very consistent” in his time in state government. In North Dakota, he founded an ultra-conservative legislative caucus, the Bastiat Caucus, named for 19th-century French economist Frederic Bastiat, famous for his free trade theories.

“I am happy to label myself America First,” Becker said. “For me it means refocusing on American sovereignty and moving away from some of these international treaties” and organizations, warning that the executive branch is implementing a “very globalist agenda.”

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.