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Rural areas proved vital in Berg win

FARGO - Less than a year ago, Rick Berg was a relative unknown among many North Dakotans. The Fargo businessman had led the Republican caucus for several terms, but gave up his power for the 2009 session knowing his current term would be his last...

Rick Berg and Earl Pomeroy
U.S. House Candidates Republican Rick Berg, left and Democratic incumbent Rep. Earl Pomeroy debate earlier this year at the Holiday Inn of Fargo. The Berg-Pomeroy U.S. congressional seat battle has included a number of negative or attack ads by the candidates or third-party groups. David Samson/The Forum.

FARGO - Less than a year ago, Rick Berg was a relative unknown among many North Dakotans.

The Fargo businessman had led the Republican caucus for several terms, but gave up his power for the 2009 session knowing his current term would be his last in the state House.

In January, Berg will trade North Dakota for Washington and become the first new U.S. representative the state has had in nearly two decades.

Berg beat nine-term incumbent Democrat Earl Pomeroy by a hefty margin of 55 percent to 45 percent on Tuesday.

A Forum analysis of the complete but unofficial election results showed Berg's support largely came from the most rural counties in North Dakota.

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He carried all but 15 of the state's 53 counties - including the most populous in the state, Cass County.

About 50.6 percent of Cass County voters supported Berg, compared to 49.1 percent for Pomeroy.

The competitive trend continued down to Berg's own legislative district in north Fargo, which he represented for more than two decades.

Among the three precincts in District 45, Berg claimed an average 52.5 percent of the vote.

Berg said his district has always been a "swing district," and added, "We knew that it would be a real close election."

In comparison, Pomeroy handily won his hometown area of Valley City. The Democrat took 11 of Barnes County's 15 precincts.

Pomeroy was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Support from the counties that are home to North Dakota's biggest cities was divided between the two candidates.

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Pomeroy took the counties that are home to Grand Forks and Devils Lake, while Berg won Ward and Burleigh counties, home to Minot and Bismarck.

Specifically, Fargo and West Fargo were closely split between Pomeroy and Berg.

Many voters in the central cores of both cities favored Pomeroy, while Berg tended to receive support from the outer neighborhoods to the north, south and west, and the precincts surrounding the metro area.

Berg pledged in his victory speech late Tuesday that he would reach out to the North Dakota voters who didn't support him, and said Wednesday that work had already begun through early preparations for his forthcoming job in Washington.

One of the items on Berg's agenda Wednesday was to smooth over relations with Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker, who endorsed Pomeroy based on the candidates' ability to secure permanent flood protection for the city.

"Obviously, we have an important task with the flood diversion," Berg said. "We need to really focus on making this happen."

"I just wanted to make sure: There's a difference between policy and politics, and a difference between getting the work done and the campaign - and to really put that behind us and move forward," he said.

Berg also said he'll attend a weeklong orientation for new congressmen in Washington the week of Nov. 15.

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The Republicans will take control of the U.S. House next year. Berg said he's excited to be a part of that bloc and wants to use that weight to accomplish the goals of his campaign.

Berg said he spoke by telephone with several senior Republican members Wednesday - including House Minority Leader John Boehner and Republican Whip Eric Cantor.

It remains to be seen what committee assignments Berg could land, but he said he'd prefer ones that could use his background in budgetary issues, small business and economic growth.

"There's a real reshuffling of a lot of things, and quite frankly, I'm going to try and be in a position where I can have the most impact," Berg said. "One of my roles will be building a coalition within the freshmen caucus out there."

"I want to make sure that these people remember what the top issues were during this election and that we're able to deliver on that," he added.

Previous Pomeroy results

1992

- Earl Pomeroy, D - 57 percent

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- John T. Korsmo, R - 39 percent

1994

- Pomeroy - 52 percent

- Gary Porter, R - 45 percent

1996

- Pomeroy - 55 percent

- Kevin Cramer, R - 43 percent

1998

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- Pomeroy - 56 percent

- Cramer - 41 percent

2000

- Pomeroy - 53 percent

- John Dorso, R - 45 percent

2002

- Pomeroy - 52 percent

- Rick Clayburgh, R - 48 percent

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2004

- Pomeroy - 60 percent

- Duane Sand, R - 40 percent

2006

- Pomeroy - 66 percent

- Matt Mechtel, R - 34 percent

2008

- Pomeroy - 62 percent

- Sand - 38 percent

2010*

- Pomeroy - 45 percent

- Rick Berg, R - 55 percent

*complete but unofficial results

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are both Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

GRAPHIC: How the state voted
The Forum

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