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Nicholas Spaeth, Kansas City, Mo., , Published December 22 2012

Letter: Conrad’s career in US Senate remarkable

As our nation hurtles toward a “fiscal cliff” at the end of this year, we are also poised, ironically, to lose the Senate’s biggest true deficit hawk, our own Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.

His Senate career has been truly remarkable. He won an improbable and narrow victory over an incumbent with the slogan “Yes, We Can,” which was borrowed by another successful candidate 22 years later. In his first campaign, he pledged not to run for that seat again if the budget deficit was not brought under control. He kept that pledge and stepped down from his seat, a decision that shocked the Washington establishment and affirmed his basic integrity.

Sen. Quentin Burdick’s unexpected death allowed Conrad to return to the Senate. He swiftly rose to be chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and has used that vantage point ever since to push for fiscal sanity, mostly to deaf ears. Conrad’s no-nonsense, even-handed approach to fixing the federal budget made him almost universally liked and well-respected in the world of big business, a predominately Republican world, in which I have spent most of my working life since I left elective office in North Dakota in 1993.

Conrad was part of the bipartisan Gang of Six that produced a sensible two-stage solution to our tax and spending dilemma – a realistic proposal that, refreshingly, didn’t resort to gimmickry or to kicking tough decisions down the road for others to make. Had Conrad’s proposal been adopted, we would not be in the current mess.

North Dakota and, more importantly, our whole country will miss Conrad. We should all be grateful for his efforts.

Spaeth is a former North Dakota attorney general and Fortune 500 senior executive (GE, Intuit, H&R Block).