Sen. Conrad receives praise
GRAND FORKS -- In his final address to the Democratic-NPL Party before his retirement later this year, Sen. Kent Conrad reflected on his decades of service and predicted a comeback for North Dakota Democrats this fall.
Conrad's optimism for 2012 extended to the presidential race, where he said Americans won't vote to return to the failed policies of the Bush administration.
"Republicans led us to the brink of a depression," Conrad said, adding of the party's 2012 platform: "They seem to have learned absolutely nothing from their mistakes."
After a video tribute of his political career, Conrad exuded his optimism for a party victory as he spoke Saturday before a crowd of nearly 1,000 delegates at the state party convention at the Alerus Center. The crowd included Conrad's former colleagues in the state's infamous "Team North Dakota" -- former Sen. Byron Dorgan and former Rep. Earl Pomeroy -- with Conrad.
After Dorgan's retirement and Pomeroy's defeat in 2010, two of the state's three congressional seats were won by Republicans, but Conrad said House candidate Pam Gulleson and Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp are the party's best chances to reclaim representation in the state's delegation.
The 25-minute video tribute offered a biographical look at Conrad's upbringing, his start in politics and his lengthy career in public office.
Before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986, Conrad served as North Dakota tax commissioner. Since then, Conrad has become well-known for his expertise on fiscal policy, particularly his work on the national budget.
In the video, Conrad's colleagues praised him, including two former senators who ascended to higher office: Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Obama called Conrad "the pre-eminent expert on budget matters here in Washington."
"He's the voice of reason and restraint," Obama said.
The tribute even included a Republican -- New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg -- who described Conrad as having "common sense, forthrightness and integrity."
Daum is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.