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Published June 13, 2012, 10:00 AM

U.S. House primary: Cramer beats Kalk for GOP nomination

FARGO, N.D. - Kevin Cramer pulled off a primary election upset Tuesday, beating North Dakota Republican Party-endorsed U.S. House candidate Brian Kalk at the polls to clinch the GOP nomination to run for the U.S. House in November.

By: Ryan Johnson, Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald

FARGO, N.D. - Kevin Cramer pulled off a primary election upset Tuesday, beating North Dakota Republican Party-endorsed U.S. House candidate Brian Kalk at the polls to clinch the GOP nomination to run for the U.S. House in November.

The Associated Press called the race in favor of Cramer late Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, all of the state’s 426 precincts were reporting their vote totals showing Cramer leading Kalk 54.44 to 45.45 percent.

The secretary of state’s office tallied 99,735 votes as of 6:45 a.m., with 54,298 backing Cramer and 45,324 supporting Kalk.

Cramer will now advance to the general election in November to challenge Democratic-NPL candidate Pam Gulleson and Libertarian contender Eric Olson.

Kalk, 46, picked up the party’s endorsement this spring, beating out four other hopefuls at the North Dakota Republican Party state convention in Bismarck.

But Cramer, 51, opted to skip the convention, instead placing his bets on winning the primary election.

“I feel relieved, I feel grateful and, frankly, a little bit overwhelmed,” he said late Tuesday. “But I also feel ready to go. I feel ready to launch into the summer with a laser focus on November and making sure that North Dakota keeps this seat in Republican hands.”

Campaign trail

Cramer said he plans to focus his campaign on his “ideas” for the nation and state, and said the contest with Gulleson will come down to who has the best “vision” and “experience” to serve as the state’s lone member of the U.S. House.

“I think I can win that kind of a campaign,” he said. “I hope it’s a very high, very upbeat kind of campaign.”

In a written statement Tuesday night, Gulleson congratulated Cramer on the win and said she looked forward to “healthy debate of the critical issues facing our great state” during the campaign season.

“Washington is full of people who like partisan bickering, but I know North Dakota is ready for someone who will get in there and get right to work,” she wrote.

Kalk issued a news release late Tuesday conceding the race, saying he would “move ahead” after voters nominated Cramer for Congress.

“I spent 20 years of my life in the Marines defending our rights — including our right to vote — so I am proud of the tremendous turnout by North Dakota voters today,” he wrote.

North Dakota’s spot on the U.S. House is open because freshman Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., is running for retiring Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad’s spot on the U.S. Senate. U.S. House members are elected to two-year terms and earn $174,000 a year.

Born and raised in Bottineau, N.D., Kalk enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1987. After retiring, he first entered the political field in 2008 when he successfully ran for a six-year term on the state’s Public Service Commission.

Cramer has a long history of political service, becoming state chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party at age 30 and serving as state tourism director from 1993 to 1997, when he was then appointed state economic development director. Then-Gov. John Hoeven appointed Cramer to the Public Service Commission in 2003, and he was re-elected to six-year terms in 2004 and 2010.

Ryan Johnson is a reporter at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald, at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send email to rjohnson@gfherald.com.

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