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Leo F. J. Wilking, Published September 22 2012

Letter: 2010’s tar won’t stick this time

I had a sense of déjà vu while reading Steve Scheel’s Sept. 15 op-ed piece on the “clear choice” between Heidi Heitkamp and Rick Berg in this year’s U.S. Senate race. Two years ago this month, Scheel wrote a very similar piece in which he made the case that Congressman Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., should be defeated because of his record of support for President Barack Obama and replaced with Fargo legislator Berg.

But Scheel’s attempt to tar Heitkamp with the Obama brush doesn’t work so well this time because Heitkamp has not cast a single vote in Congress in the past four years – or ever. As a consequence, Scheel is reduced to labeling Heitkamp as an “enthusiastic supporter of Obama from his days on the campaign trail in 2008,” and “a strong supporter of the ever-growing federal programs, Obamacare and the massive bureaucracies needed to manage them.” Scheel conveniently ignores that Heitkamp has stood up to Obama in calling for immediate approval of the Keystone pipeline and by endorsing a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

More to the point is the fact that in this election, Berg is the one with a record of votes in the U.S. House. Those votes do not reflect the values or priorities of North Dakotans. Berg has endorsed the Paul Ryan budget plan, which caps Medicare payments by way of a voucher system. He favors the wholesale repeal of the Affordable Care Act, including its provisions that mandate that insurance companies provide coverage for pre-existing conditions and allow children to be covered under their parents’ policy until age 26.

Berg is opposed to any tax increase, even for the wealthiest Americans, even though IRS data show that the top 1 percent of taxpayers paid an average of about 23 percent of their income in federal taxes in 2008, which is about a third less than the 35 percent they paid in 1980.

Scheel is correct in stating that North Dakotans have a clear choice in this year’s election. If they want a strong and independent voice for our state who will work across the aisle to find bipartisan solutions to the nation’s problems, they will choose Heitkamp for the U.S. Senate.

Wilking is a Fargo lawyer in private practice.