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Axness, Koppelman, Hanson claim seats in newly-formed District 16

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General Election Day Nov. 6 resulted in Democrat Tyler Axness taking the Senate seat and Republican Ben Koppelman and Democrat Ben Hanson winners of the two House of Representative seats in the newly formed District 16, representing constituents in parts of West Fargo and Fargo.

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In District 22, which involves rural Cass County including Casselton, incumbent Gary Lee recaptured the Senate seat, while incumbent Wesley Belter and newcomer Pete Silbernagel won the two House seats.

The District 16 vote count was: 3,096 for Axness, 2,706 for Republican challenger David Duff; 2,910 for Koppelman, 2,672 for Hansen; challengers, 2,212 for Republican Harlan Goerger, and 2,354 for Democrat John Lund.

The vote count in District 22 was: 4,505 for Lee, 2,792 for Democrat Jessica Arneson; 3,742 for Belter, 4,044 for Silbernagel; and 3,110 for Democratic challenger Allan Peterson.

As the first Senator to serve from District 16 Axness said "I'm honored the voters instilled in me their trust and confidence to represent them in the North Dakota Senate. I'm committed to representing and working for everyone to the best of my ability to ensure the North Dakota we all love is maintained for future generations.This campaign, we focused on meeting our neighbors, hearing their concerns, and expressing our vision for the future. We focused on solutions to the challenges we face across the state. The experience of those conversations was overwhelmingly positive. I look forward to going to work for our District in our state's Capitol.

Newly elected House member Ben Hanson said he is looking forward "to jumping into the process of making sure our state's boom times are lasting. This new district in West Fargo and Fargo is incredibly diverse in terms of income, housing and background. I met many people going door-to-door who had lived there their whole lives, just moved here from western North Dakota or western Minnesota to retire and quite a few immigrants to this country. I am excited to represent them all and hopefully bring a fresh voice to the legislative process in Bismarck."

Ben Koppelman said he is also "very honored and thankful to have the opportunity to represent the voters of District 16 in the Legislature. I look forward to finding common sense solutions to challenges that our state faces by listening to any constructive ideas that are offered. I will work to submit and consider quality legislation that will allow for continued growth and prosperity. It is my goal to ensure that our state will have an even brighter future."

Incumbent Senator Gary Lee who has served since 2001 said "that it continues to be a privilege serving in the North Dakota Senate. It seems the voters of District 22 are pleased with the direction the state is moving and are satisfied with the leadership we have provided."

Newly elected House member Peter Silbernagel said he too is eagerly anticipating the upcoming legislative session. "There will be many significant decisions made during this assembly and I am both humbled and excited to be a part of that decision-making process.I am thankful for being a part of the District 22 team that includes Senator Gary Lee and Representative Wes Belter. Both of these men are proven legislative leaders and have a wealth of experience that I intend to draw from."

Incumbent Wes Belter who claimed the other District 22 House seat has served since 1985.

Winners in other local races were:

District 44 Senate: incumbent Rep. Tim Flakoll; District 44 House: Dem. Joshua A. Boschee and and incumbent Rep. Blair Thoreson; District 46 Senate: Dem George Sinner; and District 46 House: incumbents Rep. Kathy Hawken and Rep. Jim Kasper.

District 1 Cass County Commission seat: Chad Peterson; and District 5: Mary Scherling.

Voters also narrowly approved a measure specific to West Fargo asking for a 50 cent increase in county 911 emergency services through the Red River Dispatch Center in Fargo.

The final vote tally was 6,366 (50.81 percent) 'yes' and 6,162 (49.19 percent) 'no.'

Every citizen with a phone currently pays $1 a month for the 911 service fee which is charged through the phone service provider. That number will now go up to $1.50 effective Jan. 1, 2013.

West Fargo Police Chief Arland Rasmussen said passage is good news for the city and he wants to thank all the citizens who voted. "The increase was needed to more adequately cover our 991 costs."

Rasmussen noted that the city of West Fargo joined the regional Red River Dispatch Center as a cost saving move. "We simply could not operate a center on our own. Our costs continue to rise and we will do our best to contain them. Alone we could not provide an adequate service but together we can and will meet the ever changing and increasing challenges. Now support of the 911 fee increase will give us more funding to use for these services."

Budget figures for 2013 project the city paying $415,000 for 911 fees. The city presently collects about $220,000 per year. The approved 50 cent increase will generate an additional $108,000, with the remaining fees covered by general fund dollars.

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