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Published December 29 2012

Forum editorial: A great senator bows out

When Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., closes his office door this week, he will end an extraordinary career in the U.S. Senate. Few senators have served as long and fewer still with such distinction. After 26 years, the senator did not seek re-election.

Following a stint as state tax commissioner, Conrad ran against Sen. Mark Andrews, R-N.D., in 1986, beating the popular senator and former congressman by a razor-thin margin. From then on, Conrad won re-election by bigger and bigger landslides. He piled up nearly 70 percent of the vote, meaning that many North Dakota Republicans voted for him – putting their state ahead of their party. Had he run this year, we suspect he would have won easily again.

Conrad was quickly recognized by his colleagues as a smart, hard-working senator. He moved up the ladder not only by seniority but also because of his work ethic and intelligence. He became chairman of the Budget Committee, a post he will hold until Thursday. In that job, he was privy to many of the most important discussions, deliberations and decisions facing the nation, including the emergency actions that were taken in 2008 and 2009 to prevent a recession from collapsing into a full-blown depression.

Always a voice of common sense and moderation, Conrad was called upon often to develop bipartisan approaches to the nation’s fiscal woes. He took on the tasks and came up with solutions that could have worked had not Washington’s bitter partisanship derailed them. He has focused on strategies to avoid the looming fiscal cliff through his last days in office.

Over the years, Conrad emerged as a rational voice for the nation and an advocate for all things North Dakota. Whether a good farm bill, a campaign to keep the state’s Air Force bases open or securing flood disaster aid, Conrad’s role was pivotal to success.

Working closely over the years with Sen. Byron Dorgan (retired in 2010) and Congressman Earl Pomeroy (lost a re-election bid in 2010), Conrad was part of a team that was among the most influential of any delegation in Congress. It was a working North Dakota partnership that will be seen as one of the most productive and effective congressional delegations in the state’s history.

Conrad did good work for his state and nation. He leaves a legacy of which he can be proud and for which North Dakotans can be grateful. We wish him all the best as he begins a new chapter in his life.

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