Though he’s running for his 10th term in office and is unaccustomed to a significant challenge, Democrat Earl Pomeroy is in real danger of losing his seat this election. Republican Rick Berg, a well-known North Dakota politician, has been ahead in the polls and is the first serious competition Pomeroy has faced in many years. The race should be considered a toss-up.
Candidates for North Dakota’s At-Large Congressional District (two-year term)
Candidate: Earl Pomeroy
Political experience: Pomeroy serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, House Agricultural Committee and is chairman of the House Social Security Subcommittee. He has represented North Dakota since 1993. Previously, he had served in the state senate and had been state insurance commissioner.
Professional experience: Pomeroy practiced law in Valley City, N.D., for five years. He was president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in 1990.
Key issues: Pomeroy wants to protect children, and has done so through legislation, he says on his website. He introduced the KIDS Act to defend children from online predators, a bill that was signed into law in 2008. He has also worked on additional legislation to ban production and distribution of “virtual” child pornography, a bill that enables parents to do online searches on convicted sex offenders in all states, and a further bill to bring online safety information to public schools.
He has authored bills that repay the debt owed to servicemen and woman. His legislation has worked to protect survivor benefits of fallen National Guard and military reserve soldiers, and he’s ensured commitments for new outpatient clinics for veterans in five North Dakota communities.
Endorsements: Pomeroy has been endorsed by the NEA, North Dakota AFL-CIO, Alliance for Retired Americans, United Transportation Union, The Fargo Forum, Dickenson Press and Jamestown Sun.
Chances of maintaining his seat: Pomeroy voted for TARP, the stimulus and health care reform — none of which are popular in many districts across the nation. If there’s a bright spot though for him, it’s in the money. According to OpenSecrets.org, he still has $1,668,843 to Berg’s $751,854 as of early October. Still, he’s trailing in polls and popularity at the moment.
Candidate: Rick Berg
Political experience: Berg has been a member of the North Dakota state house since 1984. He has been both majority leader and speaker of the house.
Professional experience: Berg is the co-founder of a commercial real estate service called Goldmark, which later became Goldmark Schlossman Commercial Real Estate Services. He’s served on the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corporation board and the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation Board of Directors.
Key issues: Berg wants to cut taxes and regulation to help drive small business — what he calls the engine of economic growth. By doing so in the North Dakota legislature, he argues budget-conscious legislators have managed to help keep the state from the worst of the recession and build a budget surplus.
He supports a balanced-budget amendment and would oppose any raising of federal income taxes. He’s against the taxpayer-funded bailouts and would repeal the so-called “death tax,” according to his website.
Endorsements: GOP big names Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin have endorsed Rick Berg.
Chances of unseating Earl Pomeroy: Pomeroy is trailing slightly behind Berg, 45 percent to 48 percent, according to a new Rasmussen poll. He’s closed the gap quite a bit, as it had been Berg ahead 53 percent to 44 percent a month ago. But Berg is in a strongly Republican state and may find that he can pull of a major upset given the current electoral mood.
Key Differences between Rick Berg and Earl Pomeroy
Agriculture: Pomeroy says he was a key negotiator for the 2008 Farm Bill and that he helped craft the final bill, which is fully funded without raising taxes. He notes he is the only member of the House in both the powerful Ways and Means Committee and the Agricultural Committee, which gives him a good place to advocate for North Dakota agriculture. Berg supports the current farm bill, but he wants to expand on that by opening markets and make crop insurance more comprehensive.
Energy: A comprehensive energy policy is great, and it would help reduce foreign energy dependence, Berg says, and he notes that the state’s reserves of coal, oil and renewable energy will be the way to handle the problem. Adding to the tool belt of ideas, he wants to streamline the approvals process for nuclear power plants. Pomeroy says he is a “fierce advocate” for renewable energy in North Dakota, and that he has sponsored bills to help wind, ethanol and biodiesel industries in the state. He notes it must be a priority to harness North Dakota’s wind energy capacity, which is ranked No. 1 in the country.
2008 results: Pomeroy received 62 percent of the vote to Republican Duane Sand’s 38 percent.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 89.8 percent of the state – which includes the entire district — is white, 5.3 percent American Indian and Alaska Native, 1.8 percent Hispanic, 0.9 percent black, and 0.8 percent Asian,.
The Cook Partisan Index gives the North Dakota’s at-large district a rating of R+10, a Republican advantage in this district.