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Published November 02, 2010, 10:15 PM

GOP's Berg beats Dem Pomeroy for ND US House seat

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Republican Rick Berg defeated North Dakota's Democratic U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy on Tuesday, becoming the first Republican in 30 years to win the state's only seat in the U.S. House.

By: DALE WETZEL, Associated Press

With 92 percent of the vote in, Berg had 55 percent of the vote to 45 percent for Pomeroy in unofficial returns.

Berg, in a speech to supporters late Tuesday in Fargo, said Pomeroy had called to congratulate him. They argued about much during the campaign, Berg said, but they agreed that "representing North Dakota at our nation's capital is the best job there is."

Pomeroy, speaking to cheering supporters in Fargo, alluded to his support of federal health care legislation and a general unhappiness with Democrats nationally that had made his campaign difficult.

"Out here on the prairie, we know the wind is sometimes at our backs, but it is often in our faces," Pomeroy said. "Although we came up short, I believe we did everything possible to pull this out ... There are no 'shoulda, coulda, wouldas' with the Pomeroy campaign. I feel, in fact, like perhaps it was the best campaign I've ever been a part of."

Berg, 51, a former GOP majority leader in the North Dakota House, was triumphant in his first statewide campaign after 26 years representing a north Fargo district as a state lawmaker.

He unseated the 58-year-old Pomeroy, a former Valley City attorney and North Dakota insurance commissioner who served for 18 years in the U.S. House. Pomeroy succeeded Democrat Byron Dorgan, who served in the House for a dozen years before he was elected to the Senate in 1992. Dorgan is leaving Congress at year's end.

Berg, who is a senior executive in a Fargo property development company, said he would advocate tax cuts, reduced federal spending and job creation incentives. He said his background in business and as a state legislator would make him an effective advocate for those causes.

He was critical of Pomeroy's support for federal health care legislation and financial bailouts of the auto and financial industries, saying the incumbent Democrat needed to pay more attention to the exploding national debt.

Pomeroy said he spoke before the election to a 102-year-old voter in his hometown of Valley City, who told the incumbent Democrat he would not support him and that it was "time for a change."

"Now I may not be the savviest guy that ever ran for public office," Pomeroy said. "But if the 102-year-olds think you've been around too long, you've got a real problem."

Pomeroy had faced his closest race since he got 52 percent of the vote eight years ago in defeating another Republican Rick, Tax Commissioner Rick Clayburgh.

Pomeroy emphasized his seniority and chairmanship of a House Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security, arguing that congressional Republicans would push to convert Social Security into a private pension program and reduce the benefits of federal farm legislation.

He used a television ad in the campaign's closing days to acknowledge North Dakotans' discontent, saying: "I'm not (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi. I'm not Barack Obama."

"I know I've disappointed you with a vote here or there, but you can always count on the fact that I do what I do for the right reason, for the people of North Dakota," Pomeroy said.

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