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Published January 19 2010

McConnell pledges no loss of clout

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell vowed Monday that North Dakotans won’t lose their influence in the U.S. Senate if John Hoeven is elected in November.

McConnell pledged to appoint Hoeven to two Senate committees – Appropriations and Energy and Natural Resources – and vowed to see to fruition the construction of permanent flood protection in the Red River Valley once Hoeven is in office.

“North Dakota’s not going to lose any clout the day John Hoeven is sworn in. He’ll be there for you in every way,” McConnell said before a crowd of some 200 supporters at a campaign rally for Hoeven in Fargo.

The rally officially kicked off Hoeven’s campaign and comes one week after the governor made known his intent to seek the Senate seat being vacated by Democratic incumbent Byron Dorgan.

Dorgan’s retirement means his replacement will join the Senate without any of the seniority Dorgan has accumulated during his 18 years there.

But the promised committee appointments for Hoeven would keep a North Dakota senator on both the Appropriations and Energy committees, where Dorgan already serves.

In McConnell’s 26 years in the Senate, no incoming freshman Republican has been appointed to the powerful Appropriations Committee, but McConnell cited Hoeven’s sound fiscal record, leadership and experience as the reason for his promise.

“I’m so enthusiastic about his candidacy that I’m willing to make that commitment,” McConnell told The Forum’s editorial board after the rally. “That’s how important I think John Hoeven is to our team. … I think I can safely say in any state in America, this is the best recruit we’ve landed so far.”

Meanwhile, North Dakota Democrats condemned McConnell as someone who “has not been shy about his efforts to stop any and all progress in the country.”

“It’s clear that Senator McConnell came to Fargo to benefit his own agenda to stop all progress in this country and not for the benefit of North Dakotans,” Democratic-NPL Executive Director Joe Aronson said in a statement. “Now, McConnell wants John Hoeven to join his ‘Party of No’ to gum up the works even more.”

Party spokeswoman Meredith Pickett added, “It doesn’t help North Dakotans to have John Hoeven on the Appropriations and Energy committees if he’s just going to be another member of the ‘Party of No.’ ”

No Democrat has yet declared their candidacy to challenge Hoeven in the race.

McConnell said he, like other state and national Republicans, had been encouraging Hoeven to run for the Senate for many months and is “enthusiastic about his prospects for success.”

“It won’t surprise you to know I’ve been speed-dialing John Hoeven for six months,” McConnell said at the rally, praising Hoeven as “one of America’s greatest governors.”

Hoeven said he talked with McConnell several times as he considered whether to run, but didn’t recall when McConnell told him of the committee appointments.

Republican supporters were energized by McConnell’s presence at Hoeven’s first campaign rally and said it emphasizes the national attention and impact the race will have as the GOP tries to regain a majority in the U.S. Senate.

“I think it really shows the enthusiasm nationally that Gov. Hoeven has in this Senate race,” said former North Dakota Republican Gov. Ed Schafer. “It also shows that when he gets there, he’s going to have instantaneous credibility and support. … He will be in a position, having developed these relationships, to get quickly involved in legislation that’s important to our state.”

Hoeven will seek the state Republican Party’s endorsement during its convention March 19-21 in Grand Forks.

Paul Sorum, a Fargo architect and business consultant, also previously announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination.

Candidate bio

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541