Republicans aim to unite around Cramer
FARGO -- Republicans were quick to rally behind challenger Kevin Cramer following his win Tuesday in the GOP primary for North Dakota's U.S. House race.
But North Dakota Democrats claim the Republican display of unity was attempting to mask the "blatantly obvious" divide within the party.
Kevin Cramer did not seek the GOP endorsement this spring, which was won by Brian Kalk.
Although Kalk had institutional support from the state GOP, Cramer won the official nomination by a nine-point margin.
In complete but unofficial results, Cramer carried 54 percent of the vote while Kalk received 45 percent.
The result forced North Dakota Republican Party leaders to shift gears Wednesday and rally behind the candidate who some party loyalists felt snubbed the traditional endorsement process.
In a statement after the election, Republican Party Chairman Stan Stein offered a message of optimism.
"North Dakota Republicans understand how important the 2012 elections are," Stein said. "We will unite around our candidates and put together a first-class campaign operation to ensure we have strong, commonsense representation in D.C., and throughout the state."
Cramer echoed that sentiment.
"While I chose a different route to the same destination, it's still the same destination," Cramer said, referring to his goal of a GOP victory in November.
"What I did by going through the primary process and having a true contest between two solid candidates, it generated excitement in our party that I would think that the other party would love to have," Cramer said.
Democratic U.S. House candidate Pam Gulleson ran unopposed in Tuesday's statewide primary.
Cramer pointed out that he received more votes in a contested primary than Gulleson received unopposed, a measure Cramer said reflects "a much higher level of enthusiasm" among North Dakota Republicans than Democrats.
"Activism is really contagious and so is momentum," he said. "I think that's what I have."
But Democratic-NPL spokeswoman Alison Kelly said the fact that nearly as many Republicans voted for Kalk as they did Cramer reflects the visible ideological rift within the GOP.
Kelly also said that since North Dakota Democrats were united around one candidate from the get-go, Gulleson is the one with the momentum.
"The unity and our desire to work together toward one common goal -- to build the future of North Dakota and make it better -- that's going to build into momentum," she said. "Voters are going to know we're not throwing partisan rhetoric at them.
"We're offering ideas," compared to what she called Cramer's "tired" rhetoric.