PRIMARY FINAL: Berg secures GOP nod in Senate race

FARGO – After a decisive victory Tuesday, Republican Rep. Rick Berg will represent his party in North Dakota’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race this November.

In complete but unofficial results, Berg led challenger Duane Sand by a 2-to-1 margin in the Republican primary.

Berg garnered 66.4 percent of Tuesday’s vote, compared to 33.5 percent who voted for Sand, with all statewide precincts reporting.

Berg said in a statement he was humbled by the primary victory.

“With the continued support of North Dakotans throughout the state, we will win in November, we will change the U.S. Senate and we will restore the promise of the American dream for future generations,” Berg said.

The match-up gave voters a choice between the perennial underdog or the establishment candidate.

Berg was endorsed by the North Dakota Republican Party this spring and is in his first term as North Dakota’s lone congressman. He was first elected in 2010 after knocking off longtime incumbent Democrat Earl Pomeroy.

Sand did not seek the Republican Party’s endorsement, instead wanting to face Berg in a primary contest.

This was Sand’s fourth bid for a congressional seat. He ran unsuccessful campaigns for the Senate in 2000 and for the House in 2004 and 2008.

Tuesday was Sand’s worst showing in a statewide election.

In Sand’s previous elections, he ran uncontested in the June primary. In general election contests, though, Sand received between 38 and 40 percent of the vote.

Out of 101.977 votes cast statewide on Tuesday, Berg received 67,724 votes , while Sand received 34,143 votes. There were 110 write-in ballots cast.

The Associated Press called the race for Berg at 9:21 p.m., after he consistently showed a wide margin of victory over his challenger.

Sand told The Forum he texted Berg to congratulate him shortly after the race was called.

“I’m already moving on in my mind,” Sand said, adding that he still plans to pursue the construction of a nuclear power plant in North Dakota, one of the major components of the energy plan he proposed during his Senate campaign.

Berg will now face Democrat Heidi Heitkamp in the November general election. Heitkamp ran uncontested in the Democratic-NPL primary.

Heitkamp sent out a statement congratulating Berg on his primary win, saying “In November, North Dakota has a clear choice.”

U.S. Senate members serve six-year terms and receive an annual salary of $174,000.

North Dakota’s seat is open this year since Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad is retiring after 25 years in office.

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