By Linda Boyd, Published October 07 2012
Heitkamp clearly on our side‘I vote the person, not the party.” North Dakotans are historically comfortable splitting their vote between party lines, and expecting their representative to do what’s best for North Dakota even when it requires bucking their own party.
North Dakota is also sparsely populated enough for a hardworking candidate to personally meet nearly every voter in the state. We like our politics up close and personal. We poke and prod our candidates, holding them to a high standard of integrity and genuine caring.
In that way, to borrow a phrase from her opponent, Heidi Heitkamp personifies the “North Dakota way.” She is nearly as well-known across the state as her Democratic congressional predecessors, the popular “Three Amigos” of Byron Dorgan, Kent Conrad and Earl Pomeroy.
When Scott Hennen suggested the topic of Heidi’s campaign for today’s Forum Faceoff, noting that she was deliberately distancing herself from President Barack Obama, I had to chuckle. Of course, Heidi is running a quintessentially North Dakota-style of campaign – fearlessly running on issues, finding the sensible middle ground between partisan extremes, and vowing to fight passionately for the residents of our state.
Bucking the party? Absolutely. National Democrats clutch their pearls when they learn of Heidi’s full-throated support for energy development (including coal, oil and natural gas) and the Keystone pipeline. She supports the popular provisions in the health care act (tax breaks for small business, coverage of pre-existing conditions, keeping young adults on their parents’ policy, and the $650 million Frontier Amendment that goes to North Dakota hospitals), while pointing out areas that need to be improved or fixed.
However, when North Dakota needed Congressman Rick Berg to buck his own party in order to fight catastrophic cuts to the farm bill, he voted in favor of those cuts in the disastrous Paul Ryan budget not once, but twice. To add insult to injury, House Republicans refused to even bring the farm bill up for a vote, leaving our nation’s agricultural industry in limbo during one of the worst droughts in recent history.
Berg voted with the House Republicans to strip away funding that had already been awarded for a North Dakota project – $14.13 million for Minot’s 55th Street bridge.
Berg voted in favor of allowing large banking interests to have access to your private information, without your permission.
Berg even voted against protecting veterans and active-duty military service members from foreclosures, denying assistance that would have been provided through the Emergency Mortgage Relief Program, established by the Emergency Housing Act of 1975.
I know, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and heartily sick of the whole business during election campaigns. Cynicism starts to swirl as thickly as blowing leaves. But in the end, when the billboards come down and the airwaves are again filled with ads for used cars and fertilizer, we will still be North Dakotans – people who love our state and who expect our representatives to be working on our side.
Clearly, the person on our side is Heidi Heitkamp.
Boyd is executive director, FM Symphony, current Fargo School Board member and former Fargo city commissioner.