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Published October 12 2010

House debate remains civil

Exchanges Monday between the candidates in North Dakota’s U.S. House race were civil compared to the spirited free-for-all that ensued last week.

Republican challenger Rick Berg and Democratic-NPL Rep. Earl Pomeroy debated for about an hour in Fargo in an event sponsored by the North Dakota Associated Press Broadcasters Association.

They discussed issues including health care reform, Social Security, the war in Afghanistan, federal spending and the extension of the Bush tax cuts.

Berg’s message was one of changing Washington, while Pomeroy’s was one of emphasizing experience and seniority.

Their positions were illustrated through their responses to a question of what impact Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker’s recent endorsement of Pomeroy might have on voters’ choices Nov. 2.

Berg emphasized his campaign platform that Washington is heading in the wrong direction.

“Seniority is OK. However, if you’re going down the wrong path, seniority doesn’t work – and our country’s going down the wrong path,” Berg said. “Now, what do we need for flood protection? We need money. We’ve gotta get our economy working again.”

Pomeroy accused Berg of dodging the question with “Washington talking points” and said Walaker’s endorsement is an indicator that he would be best-suited to help secure permanent flood protection in the Red River Valley.

“I’ve seen Rick Berg at precisely one flood control meeting,” Pomeroy said. “This isn’t about philosophy. It’s about rolling up your sleeves – working arm and arm with the local leaders to find the strategies and work through the unending problem.”

Berg said flood control is “not a partisan issue” and he supports local leaders’ efforts in securing a Fargo-Moorhead diversion. He confirmed after the debate that he attended one flood control meeting and followed the situation through media reports.

Meanwhile, Pomeroy said Berg “missed an opportunity” on the flood control issue when House Minority Leader John Boehner campaigned for him last month in Fargo.

“Haul him out to the Red River Valley. Show him some of the things that we’re dealing with,” Pomeroy said. “Rick can get him into town and have a nice fundraiser with him, but it was time to teach Boehner something about the Red River Valley.”

Berg retorted by saying Pomeroy should bring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Fargo.

“In fact, I’d help pay for her way here if she’d come,” Berg quipped, drawing laughter from his supporters in the audience. “I think the people of North Dakota understand what needs to be done, and I’ll work with Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and the House to move flood protection forward.”

Berg previously told The Forum’s editorial board he did not speak with Boehner about flood protection during the leader’s visit.

Also during Monday’s debate, many of the candidates’ statements were indistinguishable from those given during their Oct. 4 debate with Prairie Public Broadcasting.

They will meet again Friday in Bismarck for their third debate. The event at KFYR-TV’s studios will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. and air on KVLY-TV in Fargo and on statewide affiliates. The program is being jointly sponsored by KVLY/KXJB and KFYR.



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