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Published March 31 2012

VIDEO INSIDE: NDGOP delegates back Berg for US Senate

BISMARCK – Rep. Rick Berg received North Dakota Republicans’ fervent and unanimous endorsement Saturday for this year’s U.S. Senate race.

Berg ran unopposed for the party’s endorsement, but he now faces a challenge by Republican Duane Sand in the June primary – the elephant in the room that went unacknowledged during the festivities.

In accepting his party’s support, Berg heralded the dangers of Washington’s overreach in power and why North Dakota – with its strong economy and job growth – should be an example for the nation.

“We’re going to bring North Dakota common sense to Washington,” Berg said. “We’re going to share with them our values, not live with their mistakes.

“We’re listening to Washington tell us what to do, rather than telling them what we can do,” Berg added to one of many roars of applause that broke out during his address. “If we don’t do something, our kids are going to live in an America that’s lost its way.”

Berg harangued Democratic leadership in Washington for the national debt, the still-recovering economy and the 2010 health care reform overhaul, which Berg wants to repeal.

Prior to his speech, Berg’s campaign showed a mock movie trailer that dramatically emphasized Republican criticisms of President Barack Obama and North Dakota Democrats’ U.S. Senate candidate, Heidi Heitkamp.

The video segued into a short presentation about Berg’s life and rural roots in his hometown of Hettinger.

Berg was nominated for the endorsement by former Gov. Ed Schafer, former first lady Mikey Hoeven and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

Schafer cited his experiences in the 1990s working with Berg when he was a Fargo legislator at a time when the state’s economy and budget weren’t as promising.

“I’ve been in the trenches with Rick, and I know firsthand he is the one I want next to me,” Schafer said. “We have a problem in the U.S. Senate, and if we’re going to get our country back on track, we need to send Rick Berg to the U.S. Senate to control our problems.”

Berg is serving his first term in the U.S. House.

As the endorsed GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, he receives the support and resources of the state party throughout the election year – particularly in the contested primary ahead.

Berg made no acknowledgment of the pending challenge from Sand, stating he looked forward to the “next seven months ahead” until the November election.

In the hours after the endorsement, Berg would not make himself available to The Forum to answer questions about the contested primary he now faces.

Sand announced Tuesday that he wouldn’t participate in this weekend’s convention, wanting to take his chances in the statewide primary vote.

Whoever wins the June primary will take on Heitkamp in the November general election.

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