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Published October 31 2010

Forum editorial: Elect Hoeven to Senate

The conventional wisdom regarding the race for U.S. senator from North Dakota is that Republican Gov. John Hoeven will be the landslide winner over Democratic state Sen. Tracy Potter of Bismarck when the votes are counted Tuesday. There is no sound reason to doubt the conventional wisdom.

Hoeven has been one of the most successful and popular governors in the state’s history. His record over nearly a decade in office reveals both his executive leadership skills and his ability to advance public policies that have capitalized on the state’s good economic times.

His experiences as governor and his previous tenure as president of the Bank of North Dakota uniquely equip him to be an excellent U.S. senator. His popularity has allowed him a measure of independence from political party dogma. He often clashed with lawmakers of his own party when pursuing legislative priorities, such as education funding. He also has shown a willingness to engage his traditional political opponents in order to form coalitions to move legislation.

Those skills will serve him well in the U.S. Senate, where coalitions often form around regional issues, such as energy and agriculture, rather than political affiliation.

Potter has an independent record as a legislator. He often got crossways with the leadership of his party. He has stressed that quality in his uphill campaign against the governor.

Potter also has stirred up the debate on vital national issues, not the least of which is Social Security’s future. Potter put forward a long-term solvency plan that was thoughtful and well-researched. He has a pragmatic view of the tradeoff between the benefits of energy development and its negative impacts. In the tide of opposition to health care reform, he defends several elements in the law and says some of the opposition is “ideological and misinformed.” That position is not popular among North Dakotans, but Potter has been true to his beliefs rather than bend to political expediency.

The campaign has been distinguished by civil discourse and mostly informative debates. Both men have refrained from personal attacks and low-road politics – a phenomenon that has been all-too-common in other state campaigns this political season.

But when the campaign rhetoric and debate fallout fade away, Hoeven emerges as the best-qualified candidate to serve North Dakotans in the U.S. Senate. If previous voting patterns for him are any guide, he’ll win easily on Election Day with the support of Republicans, independent voters and a goodly number of Democrats.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.