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N.D. GOP candidates in U.S. House race run against Washington, each other

FARGO - The six Republican candidates competing in North Dakota's U.S. House race this year are all running against Washington in the hopes of being elected to serve there.

FARGO - The six Republican candidates competing in North Dakota's U.S. House race this year are all running against Washington in the hopes of being elected to serve there.

Anti-Washington sentiments united the GOP candidates during a debate here Monday night, in which they distinguished themselves among the conservative base by attacking career politicians and Beltway insiders.

Four of the six candidates are currently elected to public office in North Dakota, and some of them have served several terms.

Those competing for the Republican nomination in the U.S. House race are: Public Service Commissioners Brian Kalk and Kevin Cramer, Fargo legislator Bette Grande, West Fargo legislator Kim Koppelman, former state commerce commissioner Shane Goettle and Minot resident DuWayne Hendrickson.

Each candidate promoted themselves as the right choice to transform Washington politics using their own experiences from life in North Dakota.


"If you want to change Washington, D.C., you have to change the type of person you send there," Kalk said.

Grande said North Dakotans should elect a leader who will stand firm on their principles in the face of career politicians.

"Who of us here has the steel spine to follow through?" Grande said.

Issue of congressional pension

The candidates discussed various issues, including spending cuts, regulations, energy, health care, defense, education and constitutional liberties.

But the six candidates were spiritedly divided on whether they would accept the congressional pension - an expense seen as a place to trim unnecessary or excessive federal spending.

Grande passionately repeated her pledge not to accept the pension.

"If we, as congressmen, are not willing to tighten our own belts, ... we're asking our citizens to do something we aren't doing ourselves," Grande said. "We need leaders in Washington, not those who will merely follow along."


Kalk and Hendrickson also said they would not accept the pension plan.

But Cramer, Koppelman and Goettle each said the congressional pensions should be reformed so members of Congress don't earn greater benefits that private retirement plans don't offer.

"Congress should not be a place where, based on your service, you get perks," Goettle said.

Koppelman described Grande's pledge as a "gimmick," because he said one candidate's actions won't make a dent in fixing the overall problem.

"If we're going to change this, we've got to have reform across the board, not have one candidate say what they're going to do," Koppelman said.

'Elephant in the room'

The party's endorsed candidate will be decided at the state convention at the end of March, but Cramer's decision to bypass the convention guarantees there'll be a contested primary in June for the official GOP nomination.

In the evening's first question, moderator and Fargo legislator Thomas Beadle asked Cramer to answer for his decision, which Beadle called "the elephant in the room" among an audience of nearly 200 Republicans.


Cramer, a former party chairman, reiterated his love of the state Republican Party, and declared "this isn't the end of activism; this is the beginning of greater activism, greater influence in this process."

Informed discussion

Questions during the debate came from audience members and also from a list of 50 prepared questions that the candidates were given in advance.

Beadle said he wanted to ensure the debate provoked "informed, thoughtful discussion" instead of campaign talking points.

Koppelman was the only one of the six candidates who took issue with the early reveal of potential questions.

In responding to some of the prepared questions, a few candidates - such as Grande - could be seen referring to notecards.

Democrat Pam Gulleson and libertarian Eric Olson are also in the race to become North Dakota's next U.S. representative.

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