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This election year could remove SW ND presence from Congress: Local officials confident in ballot choices

While some think it's nice to have someone from the region in Washington, D.C., local officials have confidence in any North Dakotan sent to our nation's capital.

"I think, overall, North Dakota has a pretty good crop of candidates anyway," Killdeer Mayor Dan Dolechek said.

Southwest North Dakota has had a born-and-raised representative in the U.S. Congress since 1982, when then-Rep. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., took office. In 2010, Dorgan, who is from Regent, decided against re-election to his seat, held since 1992. Prior to that, he served as the state's lone representative.

Also in 2010, Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., of Hettinger, was elected to the House, ousting Valley City-native Earl Pomeroy. Having made his bid for Sen. Kent Conrad's, D-N.D., open seat, if Berg loses to challenger and former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, who was born in the southeast corner of the state and now lives in Mandan, southwest North Dakota loses its connection in Congress as well.

Of the 2012 House candidates, Kevin Cramer is from Rolette, in north central North Dakota, and Pam Gulleson is from Rutland in the southeast corner of the state. Sen. John Hoeven, who isn't up for re-election until 2016, is from Bismarck.

"I do believe that they have the best interest of all of us at heart at that level," Bowman Mayor Lyn James said.

While the regional connection is neat, any North Dakotan can represent this part of the state, Dolechek said.

"It would probably be a plus to have somebody from the area," he said. "Whoever's elected, I think, will do a good job."

Dorgan, Conrad and Pomeroy, who represented the state in Washington since 1992, were very active leaders, Mott Mayor Troy Mosbrucker said.

"I feel that it's very important to stay connected with your people that you're representing," he said. "Staying connected is going out to the counties and seeing what their needs are and seeing what's going on."

The three, especially Conrad, have hosted several town hall meetings in Mott over the years, Mosbrucker said.

The North Dakota congressional delegation has always been very accessible to the state's citizens and local officials, James said.

"As an elected official at the city level, I always felt I could visit with them," she said. "I don't think it had to do with where they were from. Their doors were open to us no matter what region of the state they were from."

For 18 years, North Dakota had a united congressional delegation in Conrad, Dorgan and Pomeroy, who are all Democrats. But party lines don't matter as much as results, Mosbrucker said.

"If you want results, you have to band together," he said. "Otherwise it's just one against the other one. You don't get any place like that. You have to be together, you have to be one group, and work together as a group to solve the problems."

Becoming a good legislator takes time, Mosbrucker said. Berg and Hoeven, who will complete their second years in Congress at the end of 2012, will learn.

But communication is a two-way street, and it's up to the local officials and their citizens to let those in higher office know what's going on, James said.

"It's our job as leaders, whether it's east, west or central North Dakota, it's our job to stay in contact with that particular representative and let them know what our needs are and what our concerns are," she said. "If we do our job, they'll do their job for us as best they can."

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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