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Hoeven, Potter debate for open US Senate seat

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Republican Gov. John Hoeven and Democratic-NPL state Sen. Tracy Potter held their own against one another in the first of two verbal sparring matches set for North Dakota's U.S. Senate race.

During a one-hour debate Thursday afternoon Hoeven and Potter defined their positions on issues ranging from the economy to gays in the military.

At times the debate turned heated as Hoeven and Potter criticized each other's policy proposals and records in North Dakota government.

But offering quick wit both candidates also drew a couple of chuckles from the crowd of about 100 who had gathered to watch the debate at the Ramada Plaza Suites in Fargo.

The only other debate Hoeven and Potter have planned is a taped debate Oct. 1 with Prairie Public Broadcasting.

Libertarian Senate candidate Keith Hanson, of West Fargo, was not invited to participate in Thursday's debate, which was sponsored by the North Dakota Broadcasters Association.


Hoeven didn't specify to what extent he'd support continuing the Bush tax cuts, but said taxes shouldn't be raised during a down economy. Instead, government should empower businesses to invest and create jobs, he said.

Potter said he supports the extension of the Bush tax cuts for all but those who earn more than $250,000 a year. That approach will help stimulate the economy while also addressing the budget deficit, he said.

Federal spending

Hoeven said cuts can be made through reducing aid to foreign countries and cracking down on fraud and abuse in entitlement programs, like Medicare.

Potter advocated for a reduced military presence overseas as a way to cut spending, but said troops should be well taken care of when they return home.


Hoeven said the stimulus plan hasn't worked. Government intervention should have focused on job creation through empowering small business.

Potter said the government had to take action and the stimulus has had a positive effect, but he wants more of it to be spent on infrastructure projects.

Social Security

Hoeven offered no specific solution to ensure Social Security's solvency. He attacked Potter's proposal and said the government must enable business to invest and create jobs.

Potter proposes lifting the cap on who pays into Social Security and reducing the tax. He said the system needs to be balanced annually, not funded for years into the future.


Hoeven touted the state's energy policy, Repower North Dakota, as a model for the country to spur investment in alternative and renewable energy.

Potter said the U.S. needs to invest in energy technology. He said Hoeven failed to plan long-term in meeting the challenges of North Dakota's oil boom.

Health care reform

Hoeven said "there's a ton of work" needed to fix the health care reform bill, such as tort reform, transparency and competition to empower individuals.

Potter said the bill is "a step in the right direction." He praised various benefits, such as better Medicare reimbursements to North Dakota providers.


Hoeven said the U.S. needs to secure its borders and crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants.

Potter takes a position similar to Hoeven's, but added he would also favor a level of amnesty for children of illegal immigrants.

'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Hoeven said the military's policy is working and he would oppose repealing it. He said military leadership should be consulted on any changes.

Potter called for the elimination of the controversial policy, saying the U.S. needs to "welcome the service of any American who wants to serve."

Daum is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.