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ND House: Different views on need for government

GRAND FORKS -- The major-party candidates for North Dakota's only seat in the U.S. House of Representatives present a choice between the legacy of the state's powerful retired senator or a fixture of Republican government here.

Pam Gulleson has a long resumé of work with the state Democrats, as a legislator for District 26 in southeastern North Dakota for 16 years and as state director for Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. She hopes to tap into the popularity once enjoyed by her former boss in the all-Democratic delegation that represented the state for three decades.

Kevin Cramer is a veteran of Republican government in the state as a Public Service Commissioner and a cabinet member for Gov. Ed Schafer. After two unsuccessful runs for Congress against Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., he is hoping that voters are ready for his brand of conservatism.

"I think what she fails to see is how conservative North Dakota has become," said Cramer this week of his Democratic opponent, Pam Gulleson. "It's not the North Dakota of the '70s or '80s."

For her part, Gulleson ties Cramer to national conservative organizations she says favor cuts to popular government programs such as the Farm Bill, flood insurance and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"That's the appropriate role for government," Gulleson said earlier this week. "We see now what's happening on the East Coast."

Focus on spending

Gulleson has been campaigning as a candidate who favors using North Dakota's voice in Washington to support the state's needs, but while remaining prudent with tax money. She puts a strong Farm Bill on top of the state's list of priorities, along with support for its energy industry.

She also said she would take a firmer stance than Cramer would against changes to Social Security and Medicare that would reduce benefits.

Cramer said the most frequent issue people bring up with him is the national deficit.

"With the absence of a lot of problems in North Dakota, I think people are more concerned about the debt," he said, adding that Democrats still think of the state as dependent on federal spending.

Gulleson, too, said she would concentrate on the deficit, and would be able build coalitions in the House to make sure spending cuts are spread fairly. She has said Cramer is too tied to national conservative groups to be open to workable solutions.

Third choice

The House race also has a third-party candidate in Eric Olson, who is running as a Libertarian candidate. He said he offers voters a different position from the major parties in his opposition to federal expansion of the money supply, foreign involvement and government encroachment on civil liberties.

Olson said he is running to build up the party in the state in the hope that a strong showing by Libertarians would convince the other parties to pay more attention to their issues.

"At this point, I think 5 percent (of the vote) would be a pretty good goal," said Olson, a first-time candidate for office.

Olson lives in Fargo and is a warehouse employee who also runs a business checking stores' inventories.

Gulleson and her husband farm and ranch near Rutland, N.D., southwest of Wahpeton, N.D.

Cramer lives in Bismarck and works full-time for the Public Service Commission. He was appointed to the PSC in 2003 and was most recently re-elected in 2010.