Published November 03 2010
UPDATED: Berg wins U.S. House race in historic victoryCall him “Congressman-elect Rick Berg.”
For the first time in nearly half a century, a challenger has ousted the incumbent North Dakota congressman.
In Tuesday’s historic finale to a highly contentious and long-fought race, Fargo Republican state legislator Berg beat out nine-term Democratic incumbent Rep. Earl Pomeroy in incomplete and unofficial returns.
In complete but unofficial results from all 505 precincts, Berg garnered 55 percent of the vote, compared to 45 percent for Pomeroy. In raw numbers, Berg had 127,809 votes in his favor, while Pomeroy had 104,748.
In his victory speech before a vibrant Republican crowd at a Fargo hotel, Berg thanked Pomeroy for his 18 years of service and vowed to reach out to the share of North Dakotans who didn’t support him Tuesday.
“It is a congressman’s job to represent all the people of North Dakota, and that’s what I intend to do,” Berg said. “Starting tomorrow, I’m going to start working for you.”
Berg also reiterated his campaign platform of bringing “the North Dakota way” to Washington through fiscal responsibility.
“Two years ago, people wanted change – but what they wanted was for Washington to change,” Berg said. “They didn’t want America to change. ... This election is about getting America back on track, and that’s what I intend to do.”
In stark contrast to the enthusiastic Republicans, the Democratic gathering several blocks away was subdued and almost somber at times throughout the evening – a foreboding indicator of what the night’s outcome would be.
Pomeroy conceded the race to Berg at 10:30 p.m. in a heartfelt speech that brought some Democratic supporters to tears.
“I congratulate Rick Berg on his victory and wish him well as he undertakes the responsibility to deliver for the great state of North Dakota,” said Pomeroy, who has represented the state in Congress since 1992.
“In the end, these races are decided by the voters,” he said, “and, we knew this contentious year may be the time that voters took things in a different direction. ... Even in losing, this was an extraordinary campaign experience.”
Pomeroy again stood by his vote for health care reform – one of the predominate themes of North Dakota’s U.S. House race this year and a driving force behind Berg’s bid for the seat.
During the past 10 months, Berg and Pomeroy fought a competitive battle to earn voters’ support. Both candidates agreed Tuesday the campaign presented a clear difference for North Dakota voters between what the candidates had to offer.
U.S. representatives serve two-year terms and earn an annual salary of $174,000.
“It’s been such an honor to have been given the chance to make a difference,” Pomeroy said. “Now that chance has been given to Rick Berg, and I wish him well, but I will always be so deeply grateful for the years that were given to me by the voters.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541