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Published June 18 2012

One debate scheduled in ND Senate race so far

FARGO – North Dakota’s two U.S. Senate contenders have agreed to at least one debate before the November election, but the Democratic candidate wants a commitment from her opponent for several more.

Heidi Heitkamp’s campaign says she’s agreed to four debate invitations for this fall, and she wants at least three more debates against Republican Rep. Rick Berg before Election Day.

Heitkamp and Berg have both agreed to participate in a televised debate sponsored by Prairie Public.

Heitkamp has also accepted invitations from the Lignite Energy Council, the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce and the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce.

Heitkamp recently laid out a challenge to Berg that the pair should debate at least seven times before Nov. 6.

“There is a clear choice in this election,” Heitkamp said in a statement. “North Dakotans deserve to hear about the difference between my campaign … and my opponent.”

Chris Van Guilder, Berg’s spokesman, said Monday that Berg plans to “to finalize the debate schedule in the days and weeks ahead.”

He did not provide comment specifically in regards to Heitkamp’s challenge.

This spring, Berg ignored challenges from his primary opponent, Republican Duane Sand, who sought to debate Berg before the June 12 contest that Berg won by a 2-to-1 margin.

In response to those challenges, Berg had said he was focused on the general election contest.

Heitkamp’s challenge to Berg sets up a potential campaign battle this summer akin to North Dakota’s 2010 U.S. House race.

In that contest, Berg and incumbent Democrat Earl Pomeroy spent the summer quarrelling over which man was dodging the chance to debate his opponent.

Particularly at issue: Pomeroy wanted to schedule the debates around his obligations in Congress, which are often unpredictable and last-minute.

However, Berg lambasted Pomeroy for not committing well in advance to debate opportunities.

The duo ended up having three formal debates in the run up to Berg’s Election Day victory over Pomeroy.

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