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Published October 03 2012

‘Women for Berg’ coalition forms

FARGO – Flanked by his doctor wife on one side and a powerful female senator on the other, Republican Rep. Rick Berg on Wednesday announced the formation of a “Women for Berg” coalition to help spread his message in the Senate race against his opponent, Heidi Heitkamp.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, who was elected in 1993 and remains the only woman to have represented the Lone Star State in the Senate, said North Dakota and Texas have a lot in common.

“We have a strong energy industry. We need members of the Senate who understand that,” she said.

Berg’s campaign said the coalition has more than 40 leaders statewide who will help spread his message across the state. It said the group consists of students, parents, grandparents and women working in all sectors of the economy.

“Our group believes that women in our communities want to see our country balance our budget, reduce our debt, grow our economy, leave health care decisions between doctors and patients and be respected around the world,” said chairwoman Connie Nicholas, who farms near Cando with her husband, Gene, a former state legislator who served with Berg.

With about 20 coalition members standing behind her in downtown Fargo, Hutchison said small-business women know that with low taxes, a good regulatory environment and getting rid of so-called Obamacare, “they will be able to grow and hire people and contribute to our economy.”

But while Berg and Hutchison blasted Obama’s health care plan, they differ on how to address it.

“No one’s talking about repealing the parts that have already been implemented,” Hutchison said. “And I think those are the important parts that Republicans have said they would keep and insurance companies have said they would abide by, raising the coverage for children who live at home to the age of 25. Those things will stay in place.”

Berg said the law needs to be repealed in its entirety, “and then put together a plan that really does what we want to do, and that’s ensure that people have the care that they need when they want it, from the physician that they can pick and at an affordable cost.”

Heitkamp’s campaign pounced on the apparent difference of opinion. Spokesman Brandon Lorenz said in an email that Hutchison distanced herself from Berg “and agreed with Heidi there is good and bad in the health care law and it needs to be fixed.

“But Rep. Berg voted to go back to letting insurance companies deny coverage to kids, or for pre-existing conditions and has no plan to keep the good parts of the law,” Lorenz said. “He also has no plans to keep the Frontier Amendment, putting at risk

$650 million in Medicare funding for North Dakota hospitals.”

When it was noted that Berg’s position was at odds with hers, Hutchison said, “I think that obviously he’s the one that matters here. The parts that have been implemented, the insurance companies have said they’re going to keep and the Republicans have said that they support.

“But that’s the parts that people can look at that have already happened,” she continued. “The big costs that he’s talking about are the ones that come next year. It’s the big taxes, it is the horrendous effect on small business, and then taking $700 billion out of Medicare to fund a one-size fits all program for other people it’s just, it’s unthinkable. And that’s what he’s talking about.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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