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Published October 23 2012

Forum editorial: Rick Berg for Senate from ND

When you hack through the thicket of charges, counter-charges, half-truths and out-and-out lies in the broadcast ads in the U.S. Senate campaign in North Dakota, at the end of it all the election is about competing visions for the nation’s future. On that basis, Congressman Rick Berg is the better option.

Former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp has conducted a spirited campaign against Berg. Berg knocked off popular Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy in 2010, and was viewed early on as a shoo-in. The win raised Berg’s electability stock. In addition to upending Pomeroy, Berg has been a visible congressman for two years. He is running in one of the reddest of the red states. By those measures, he should be a shoo-in.

The Heitkamp team never bought it, and as the campaign unfolded, Berg often was on the defensive. The race has been very close, although it appears Berg has moved ahead in recent days.

Put all that aside. It’s about something bigger than polls, TV ads and the hype generated by both campaigns. Voters should not be diverted from the clear choice they have.

Berg is an advocate of smaller government, which translates into less government intrusion into private lives and private businesses. It’s a philosophy nurtured during his years as a state legislator. It has worked for North Dakota, and Berg believes he can use his state’s success as an example for the U.S. Senate.

Heitkamp’s view is different. She sincerely believes in a more activist role for government in everything from environmental regulation to health care. Her beliefs about how government should interact with states and the governed are increasingly out of step with her state.

Thus, their ideas diverge. We reject attempts to paint one candidate as a better North Dakotan or a better American than the other because they have competing ideas. Character assassination has no place in a North Dakota political campaign. So it is unfortunate that independent groups have aired such tripe on behalf of both candidates, and disappointing that both have remained mostly silent about it.

Bottom line? At a time the nation needs to pause and take stock of the direction America has gone in the past four years, North Dakotans have a choice. If “hope and change” is to be more than the empty slogan of a failed president, the Senate can give it real meaning. Berg has the legislative experience, business common sense and conservative credentials to help the U.S. Senate make it happen.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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