North Dakota Republicans collect top prizes _ and more

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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Republicans once again had their way in North Dakota, punctuated by Kevin Cramer's victory over Heidi Heitkamp in a highly charged U.S. Senate race and Kelly Armstrong's quieter but convincing win to fill Cramer's U.S. House seat.

It didn't end there. The GOP - along with Republican-turned-independent Secretary of State Al Jaeger - once again swept the state offices and saw a noncitizen voting measure pass after it was put on the ballot in part to counter turnout for an initiative to legalize marijuana.

And the pot measure went down, just two years after voters said yes to medicinal marijuana.

The Democrats were clinging to a couple of bright spots heading into Thursday. A government ethics measure that the Democrats have tried to pass in various forms was leading and Republican House Majority Al Carlson was in third place in the race for two south Fargo spots as the final votes were tallied.

Here's a rundown on the election:


Both the winner and loser in one of North Dakota's most expensive political battles used similar expressions to summarize their political exploits.

Cramer says the victory was the "honor" of his life. Heitkamp says serving in the Senate was the "highest honor" of her life.

Cramer won by persuading North Dakota voters that his emphatic conservatism would serve them better than her occasional independence from her own party. Heitkamp portrayed herself as an independent who wasn't afraid to vote against her own party or vote with President Donald Trump.

Heitkamp raised more than $27 million for her re-election campaign. That was almost five times as much as Cramer, who called it a "bunch of money to push a bad message."


North Dakota voters aren't ready to take the next step with marijuana, soundly rejecting a proposal to legalize it broadly just two years after they OK'd medicinal marijuana.

Law enforcement argued it would lead to more violent crime, accidents and workplace issues. The state also estimated it would be expensive, in part because of a provision in the proposed law that would wipe past marijuana-related convictions off people's records.

North Dakota State University student Lindsey Pouliot, a senior majoring in English, said she favors decriminalizing marijuana, but didn't like the way the bill was written.

Backers argued the legalization would free up law enforcement to tackle more serious crimes. They were counting on a shoe-leather campaign to build support, raising little money for their effort and getting only token help from national legalization groups.

Becky Eckdahl, 53, a server at a Bismarck deli, voted in favor of the legalization.

"I've been smoking it since I was 11 years old. I've never gotten arrested, never had any problems with it, never lost a job," she said. "I think it's a good thing."


Although the so-called "anti-corruption" measure is sponsored by a bipartisan group, it's something Democrats have fought unsuccessfully for years to do.

Backers say the measure will add transparency and accountability to government. They raised more than $400,000 to push it, with much of the money coming from left-leaning out-of-state groups.

Opponents argued the state has no ethics problem. In the Republican-led Legislature, leaders said the measure isn't needed because lawmakers already follow high standards of conduct. The American Civil Liberties Union opposed the measure, saying it restricts political speech and advocacy.

Jolene Vidal, 43, Bismarck, who works for the state Department of Transportation, voted in favor of the measure because she wants to know where "campaign funding is coming from."


Voters passed a proposal to amend the North Dakota Constitution to explicitly bar non-U.S. citizens from voting. The document already defines a voter as a U.S. citizen, but supporters argue the wording is ambiguous and needs to be clarified.

Gary Emineth, a former state Republican Party chairman, acknowledged that one goal of his proposal was to attract conservative voters to balance liberal voters that might be drawn to the marijuana issue.

Darren Schaefer, 45, who works unloading trucks in Bismarck, voted in favor of the proposal, noting: "I can't go up to Canada and vote in their elections."


Republican state Sen. Kelly Armstrong claimed North Dakota's open U.S. House seat after raising more than twice as much money as Democrat Mac Schneider, a former two-term state senator. In a campaign between two attorneys, the two agreed on fewer federal regulations and more control to local governments and disagreed on tax cuts and trade policies. Rob Bentz, 51, of Bismarck, an insurance claims adjuster, voted for Armstrong "mostly because I didn't know much about the other candidate."


Republican Al Jaeger's nearly three-decade run as secretary of state has been extended for another term, despite being snubbed by his own party at the state convention. The endorsed candidate, businessman Will Gardner, attacked Jaeger as behind the times. Gardner wound up quitting the race when an old conviction for a peeping-tom incident resurfaced - clearing the way for Jaeger to rise again as an independent. Democrat Josh Boschee, a state representative from Fargo, was looking to become the first Democrat to hold a statewide office since Roger Johnson resigned as agriculture commissioner in 2009.


Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers of the Legislature, and that wasn't likely to change Tuesday, even with a possible change at the top. Carlson was third behind Republican Michelle Strinden and Democrat Pamela Anderson in District 41.

Republicans to win re-election to state offices were Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger and Public Service Commission members Randy Christmann and Brian Kroshus.


For AP's complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections:

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