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Unless America wants a legislative disaster akin to the sinking of the Titanic, a North Dakota Senate win is crucial this November.

Assume a nightmare: if Republicans keep control of the House of Representatives, and turn just four seats from red to blue in the Senate, they will control the entire legislative branch.


We have seen the difficulties President Obama has had getting anything progressive passed by an obstructionist House of Representatives—imagine an equally obstreperous Senate-- not to mention a Republican-dominated Supreme Court?

North Dakota is crucial, especially given the impending retirement of popular five-term Democrat Kent Conrad.  

As the state voted Republican in the last three Presidential races, it might appear to be an easy win for the GOP.

Their candidate?  Rick Berg is a pleasant-voiced man with some very extreme positions—and he is heavily backed by the Tea Party, Karl Rove, and several Super PACs.

Fortunately, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp is North Dakotan born and raised, and very much up to the challenge. And against conventional wisdom in a state leaning red, she is actually slightly ahead in the polls, up 1% in a recent Mason/Dixon poll.
Big new poll: indy pollster Mason-Dixon shows Dem Heitkamp up 1 on Republican Berg in #NDSEN, 47-46.

As the Washington Post put it, “Heitkamp and her party don’t have an easy road in front of them, but they start the general election in surprisingly good shape.”

Naturally, I wanted to know what she was like.  After Googling a couple dozen articles about Ms. Heitkamp, I called up her office.

She answered my questions straight-forwardly.  

 For instance, stem cell research is my key issue—and unfortunately North Dakota has some of the most anti-stem cell research laws on the books.

Would Ms. Heitkamp be able to support national stem cell legislation like the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2003 and 2007, which passed both House and Senate before President Bush vetoed it? That bill would authorize government funding of biological materials which would otherwise be thrown away. This research offers hope for my paralyzed son Roman Reed and millions of Americans suffering chronic disease, from Alzheimer’s to stroke.

To my delight, she indicated strong support: first, because the cells used would otherwise have been discarded; and secondly because the research holds promise for tackling Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, diseases particularly common in states like North Dakota with a higher proportion of elderly.

Naturally I mentioned the California’s stem cell program’s work on Alzheimer’s.

Her opponent’s position would criminalize the research.

Her opponent, Rick Berg is the official co-sponsor of a “personhood” bill, HB 1572, which declared fertilized eggs to be the legal equivalent of a full-grown human being. His bill would criminalize much stem cell research, birth control methods including “the pill”, and very likely the In Vitro Fertility, (IVF) process, which has helped so many childless couples to conceive.

A Grand Forks Herald editorial called Berg’s bill “the most radical bill in the state legislature… HB1572…recognizes the ‘personhood’ of a fertilized human egg…. It would upend North Dakota law…Some birth control pills and IUDs prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. Using them could be classified as felony crimes…”
Bismarck Tribune, 3/13/09

Medicare? Heitkamp wants to keep it; Berg wants to cut it.

Taxation? To reduce record budget deficits, Ms. Heitkamp wants millionaires to pay more; Mr. Berg—a millionaire himself several times over-- wants the rich to even pay less, extending the Bush tax cuts, and adding on new exemptions for the wealthy.

Under normal circumstances, Mr. Berg would have about as much chance for election as another kind of berg—like the one which sank the Titanic.

But these are not normal times. Mr. Berg benefits from attack ads designed and paid for by billionaire-backed groups like Karl Rove’s American CrossRoads GPS, Pat Boone’s 60 Plus (a group which apparently wants to privatize Social Security) and other money-flooders.

If their tactics prevail, the structure of American government could be forever altered.

Consider: in the next President’s term, one or more Supreme Court justices will be put into life-long positions of power. Do we want another John Roberts, who gave us the “Citizens United” decision which allows the super-rich to pour limitless money into elections?

Remember in November!

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