Wednesday, January 6, 2010

North Dakota Senate Election

Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, has decided not to seek a fourth Senate term. That will end a 30-year congressional career, including 12 years in the House, and 18 in the Senate.

North Dakota has consistently voted Republican in presidential elections. Since 1920, it only voted Democratic three times, supporting the landslide victories of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 and 1936, and Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

But, as is the case with many western states, Democrats within the state have been more successful than their party's national tickets. Dorgan's senior colleague in the Senate, Kent Conrad, is also a Democrat, as is North Dakota's only congressman, Earl Pomeroy.

Having lived next-door to Delaware for more than 20 years, I've become familiar with the distinctive political dynamics in those states whose population is too small to have more than one representative in the House. Four major leaders all seek the votes of the same electorate: governor, two senators, and congressman. Sometimes they seem like interchangeable parts. For example, if Representative Michael Castle, Republican of Delaware, succeeds in his campaign for Vice President Biden's old Senate seat, he will have held all three of those offices. And Castle would serve with Democratic Senator Tom Carper, who has also scored that hat trick.

In North Dakota, Republican Governor John Hoeven had reportedly been considering a challenge to Dorgan, and is now presumably even more likely to run for the Senate. Pomeroy seems the early favorite for the Democratic nomination. The musical-chairs game then extends into speculation about House candidates.

North Dakota is larger in area, and colder, than Delaware, but otherwise they seem to have things in common.

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