Rick Berg, left, chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party, congratulates Senator-elect Kevin Cramer, center, as he walks to the stage with his wife, Kris Cramer, at the Republican victory celebration on Tuesday evening in Bismarck.

North Dakota Republicans capped a sweeping victory on Tuesday in the midterm elections, crowned by Rep. Kevin Cramer's win over Democrat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. 

Clinching a 9-point lead with 92 percent of precincts reporting, Cramer declared victory just after 9 p.m. Appearing onstage after fellow Republican candidates gave remarks, Cramer highlighted the implications of the Senate race, which saw involvement from President Donald Trump, who visited Fargo twice, and Vice President Mike Pence. 

"I'm grateful that Donald Trump knows and remembers the heartland of America," Cramer said to cheers.

Heitkamp was defeated as the only member of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL holding statewide office. The former state tax commissioner and attorney general was elected in 2012 by fewer than 3,000 votes over then-Rep. Rick Berg, who is now the Republican party chair.

In her concession remarks, Heitkamp thanked her supporters and reinforced her accomplishments as a senator — lifting the 40-year export ban on crude oil and advocating for Native American women and children, among others.

"While tonight’s result wasn’t the outcome we desired, I still have so much hope for our future. But I also know that for us to succeed, we can and must return to a politics that reflects the goodness of our country and the goodness of North Dakota," Heitkamp said in her statement.

State Auditor Josh Gallion warmed up the crowd, issuing a reminder that Cramer's election will mark North Dakota's first dual Republican U.S. Senate delegation since 1960, and the state's first all-Republican congressional delegation in 98 years.

The Cramer-Heitkamp race drew national attention for its outcome to impact the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. People attending the state Republican Party bash cheered when Fox News announced that "Republicans retain Senate control." 

Cramer and re-elected Secretary of State Al Jaeger spoke to the "full circle" of Republican office holders in North Dakota. In 1992, Cramer was the party chair and Jaeger won his first election the same year Republican Ed Schafer won the governor's office, a time when Democrats held many other statewide seats.

"The circle is completed," Jaeger said in brief remarks. "We have 'em all."

"We're on the right track," Republican state Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger said in his remarks. 

Gov. Doug Burgum said the Republicans' victory is "exciting at this point in time," as the state enjoys a strong relationship with the Trump administration. 

"Even more important than ever, to have senators that are there advocating to move control and responsibility back to the states, whether it's health care, whether it's the environment, whether it's the economy — these are all things where we know as North Dakotans, one-size-fits-all does not work anywhere in the nation," the first-term Republican governor said. "It certainly doesn't work for North Dakota."

Bismarck voters turning out for the midterm election had a number of reasons driving their decisions in the state's U.S. Senate race.

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Andre Gill, who moved from New Jersey in 2016 for "a change in scenery" and better opportunities for his children, said he voted for Heitkamp in opposition to Republican President Donald Trump and to return Democrats to office. 

"I'm ready to get Trump out of office," he said, as he exited the polls at the Bismarck Event Center. 

Gill said he's always voted in elections. Bruce Skogen said the same thing as he left the polls with his wife, Barb, attaching an "I voted" sticker to his coat. He said he voted Republican. 

"I just vote in the elections because you're supposed to," he said. 

Barb Skogen, meanwhile, said she avoided the Senate race on the ballot. Neither Cramer nor Heitkamp appealed to her, she said. 

"I had problems with both of them, so I didn't vote for either one," she said. "That's the only thing I leave blank. Everything else I voted on."

Matthew Kubik said he voted for Cramer as he normally votes Republican. The fallout from a Heitkamp newspaper ad which misused names of women who experienced violence hit close to home for him, he added. 

"I was a friend of one of the sexual assault victims that she posted," Kubik said. "That kinda sealed the deal, honestly." 

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Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.


Capitol Reporter