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Pomeroy: 'Even this year I'll be OK'

Despite being in a close U.S. House race with Republican challenger Rick Berg, Democratic incumbent Rep. Earl Pomeroy said today that he's confident North Dakotans will re-elect him in November.

Former N.D. Congressman Earl Pomeroy Pomeroy
Former N.D. Congressman Earl Pomeroy

Despite being in a close U.S. House race with Republican challenger Rick Berg, Democratic incumbent Rep. Earl Pomeroy said today that he's confident North Dakotans will re-elect him in November.

During a meeting with the Herald's editorial board, Pomeroy outlined his goals for the next two years in Congress and explained his decision to vote for health care reform earlier this year.

He said North Dakotans focus on "real and important" issues, including taking care of families and seniors and ensuring the next generation will have more opportunities than their parents.

"My job is to 100 percent of the time reflect what's in the best interest of North Dakota as this picture comes together across the country," he said.

But Pomeroy said there are important "philosophical differences" between himself and Berg that voters will take into account on Election Day.


"I'm not a big government guy; I'm a practical government guy," he said.

He said he works with both Democrats and Republicans, an important trait for North Dakota's lone member of the House.

"It's about solving problems and working with leaders in our state to get those problems solved," he said. "I think my record is strong on that, and that's why I think even this year I'll be ok."

Pomeroy said millions of dollars of negative advertising last winter and spring that criticized him for supporting health care reform was the "political game changer" that turned this into a tough campaign.

"These things do damage," he said. "They put out a very distorted view of what the bill does and damaged my popularity in the end for supporting the bill. But a lot of it is pure fiction."

He pointed out the North Dakota Medical Association and the AARP both supported the reform, as did several hospital administrators in the state.

Pomeroy said it was "a good bill" that will help people get medical coverage regardless of their current health conditions and assist residents if they can't afford the premiums. It also will bring an additional $650 million in Medicare payments into the state over the next 10 years, he said.

Other issues


Pomeroy criticized Berg's proposal to drill oil underneath federal lands and national parks as a way of providing long-term funding for Social Security.

He said the suggestion was flawed because it's based on the idea that Social Security is facing an "imminent" crisis. The program isn't running a deficit, he said, and is estimated to have a $76 billion surplus this year.

Pomeroy said current estimates show Social Security can continue to make full benefit payments until 2037 without any change, after which payroll taxes would be enough to cover 75 percent of benefits. Still, he said lawmakers need to start coming up with a solution to this "manageable problem" to prevent future benefit cuts.

And horizontal drilling technology doesn't make it possible to get the oil underneath Theodore Roosevelt National Park without being a "disruptive activity," he said.

Pomeroy said Berg's proposal shows he's a candidate "that hasn't done his homework."

"We don't have an imminent problem," Pomeroy said. "And he's throwing up ideas that are not terribly well thought out."

-Pomeroy said Fargo needs permanent flood protection to deal with the $119 million flood threat the city faces from the Red River each year, according to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimate.

"A great community can't continue to grow and prosper under that threat," he said.


A proposed $1.4 billion diversion project would help, he said, but getting permanent protection for Fargo can't be "at the expense of just moving the water" and raising flood crests for downstream communities.

He said the downstream impact could be mitigated by increasing water retention capability along the Red River Valley, an idea Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., hopes to get federal funding for in the next Farm Bill.

Pomeroy said he supports that proposal and also hopes to work toward a permanent solution for the rising Devils Lake, which set a new record elevation of 1,452.1 feet this summer. Officials estimate that if the lake reaches 1,458 feet, it would spill naturally and uncontrollably out of connecting Stump Lake and eventually reach the Sheyenne River.

He said precipitation patterns in the region have changed, a fact officials need to account for as flooding remains a big threat for North Dakota communities.

"We have to prepare for it," Pomeroy said. "That means two big projects: we've got to figure out Devils Lake and we've got to figure out Fargo."

Johnson reports on local politics. Reach him at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

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