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Other views: Cramer's challenge

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editorials Dickinson, 58602
The Dickinson Press
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Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

As U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer mulls how to respond to the government shutdown and debt-ceiling crises, he should remember something: He's not like other Republicans in the House.

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Other Republicans in the House -- a great many of them, anyway, especially the most conservative members -- represent gerrymandered, heavily conservative districts. And in most of those cases, the members share a common re-election fear, which is being challenged in a Republican primary from the right.

But that's not Cramer's situation. Cramer, R-N.D., represents an entire state -- North Dakota.

And North Dakota is much more complicated and politically diverse than are, say, the wealthy suburbs of Dallas or Atlanta.

That's why North Dakota traditionally has sent moderates to Washington -- or at least (and as cynics might put it), politicians who've made a show of breaking with party ideologues on key issues.

That's what it usually has taken to win statewide elections to federal office.

And that's why Cramer's re-election challenge almost certainly won't be from the right. It'll be from Democrats to his left -- but not his far left: If Democrats are smart, they'll nominate a credible, Heidi Heitkamp-like candidate who'll win not only Democrats but also independents and even some moderate Republicans.

Speaking of Sen. Heitkamp, her and Republican Sen. John Hoeven's example shows exactly the situation most North Dakota candidates face in congressional elections.

Heitkamp takes pains to highlight her differences with national Democrats on key North Dakota issues. Hoeven has taken a leadership role among Senate Republicans in forging bipartisan compromises. In a telling episode last week, he also pointedly refused to vote with the tea party Republican Senate caucus led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

When Hoeven and Heitkamp run for re-election, they'll run statewide.

When Cramer runs for re-election, that's exactly the way he'll have to run, too: Statewide.

North Dakota is a Republican-majority state. But that's not the same as saying it's a straight-line conservative state, as supporters of Measure 2 in 2012 (which would have eliminated property taxes), Measure 2 in 2008 (which would have cut income taxes in half) and Rick Berg for U.S. Senate have found.

Perhaps Cramer could use a "Sister Souljah moment," a event in which he defies party hardliners by moving to the center on a high-profile and controversial issue. If that's the case, then voting to keep Theodore Roosevelt National Park open and America's credit rating intact might be great places to start.

The Grand Forks Herald's Editorial Board formed this opinion.

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