North Dakota Senate hopefuls in last-minute campaign mode

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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Republican Kevin Cramer and Democrat Heidi Heitkamp were finishing their Senate race Monday with a flurry of campaigning in North Dakota's capital city and across the state.

The race has big stakes for the state and the nation, with Republicans banking on it to help retain control of the Senate. Incumbent Sen. Heitkamp, who is seeking her second term, is seen as one of the most vulnerable senators among red-state Democrats.

Heitkamp was making stops Monday in Bismarck, Minot, Belcourt, Grand Forks and Fargo, where she will be Election Day. Heitkamp voted last week in Mandan, where she lives.

Cramer voted early on Monday in Bismarck and will remain there until the votes are tallied Tuesday. He told reporters he was personally calling voters and doing several radio and television interviews Monday.

Cramer said he thinks he's leading Heitkamp but that the race is closer than polls suggest.

Cramer said he remembers when Heitkamp was down in most polling on the day before she defeated Rick Berg six years ago by fewer than 2,000 votes.

"I feel pretty confident," Cramer said. "But I expect this race is closer than the polling has demonstrated."

Heitkamp said in a statement that "pollsters underestimated the independence of North Dakotans" six years ago.

"Just like in 2012, the wind is at our back in this race," her statement said.

Campaign finance disclosures show Heitkamp has raised more than $27 million in her re-election bid, or five times that of her opponent.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger said more than 135,000 North Dakota residents had already cast ballots by Monday morning, nearly equal to the total turnout in the June primary.

Voters also will choose a new U.S. House member to replace Cramer. GOP State Sen. Kelly Armstrong of Dickinson is facing Democrat Mac Schneider, a businessman and attorney. He served in the state Senate from 2009 until his defeat for re-election in 2016. Armstrong is a lawyer and the former chairman of the state Republican Party.

The other statewide races on the ballot are attorney general, secretary of state, public service commissioner, tax commissioner and agriculture commissioner - all jobs now held by Republicans.

Voters will also see several ballot measures, including one to legalize recreational marijuana just two years after they said yes to medical marijuana. Another would amend the state constitution to enact several ethics measures, including banning foreign money in elections and creating an independent ethics commission. A third would explicitly block noncitizens from voting, even though it is already illegal for them to vote.

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