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Letter to the Editor: Decision time in North Dakota

It's decision time in North Dakota. Soon, voters will decide not only who will represent us in the United States Senate, but perhaps who will control the United States Senate.

With that in mind, there are a few simple things we should all consider before going to the polls.

This has been a bruising, rough and tumble political season and, like you, I'm tired of the negative ads. I have noticed, however, that while one candidate has critiqued the other's policies and positions on issues, the other has attacked the opponent personally, trying to tear down his character and personal integrity. That marks a sad day in North Dakota politics.

Setting the attack machine aside, I believe the people of North Dakota deserve to know a few things about Rick Berg from someone who has known and served with him for many years.

Like all of us, Rick Berg is not a perfect person, but he's certainly not what his opponent's slash and burn campaign has attempted to make him out to be. The Rick Berg I know is a successful businessman and a committed public servant. I personally understand the sacrifice that entails. As any legislator knows, you can't be a successful legislator unless colleagues know they can trust your word, your character and your integrity.

As a young man, Rick Berg chose not only to pursue a successful business career, but also to begin giving back, serving for decades in the North Dakota House of Representatives. That included serving as a committee chairman, Speaker of the House and House Majority Leader. Those are positions of trust and confidence bestowed by colleagues upon those they believe in.

On the House floor, I sat in the chair immediately in front of Rick Berg, during his service as Majority Leader. We didn't agree on everything, but I observed a man committed to good government and to moving our state forward--someone who was always willing to work with colleagues from both parties to accomplish those goals.

Fiscal responsibility and job creation were always in the forefront of Rick Berg's mind, as a legislator and a leader.

He continually cautioned his Majority caucus and the entire Legislature against spending at levels that would be unsustainable in the future. That fiscal responsibility helped make our current surplus possible.

He understands business and helped shape policies that encouraged business growth, which created jobs. Today, North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate and the fastest-growing personal incomes in the nation.

He'd learned the hard way, watching the "boom and bust" of the 1980s in North Dakota's oil patch and the overtaxation of North Dakota's citizens which tanked our economy during that same era. Those lessons led to policies which have helped encourage the current oil boom and set the stage for the prosperity North Dakota is enjoying today.

Rick Berg would be the first to say that he doesn't deserve sole credit for North Dakota's success, but the record and his role in it are clear.

When we elected him to Congress two years ago, his legislative experience made him a star in the freshman class. I personally observed that as I met with his Congressional colleagues.

Now, we must decide who we will send to represent us in the United States Senate. Will it be someone with that experience and track record or someone who has never even cast a vote in a legislative body? Will it be someone who will apply proven experience and judgment representing us or someone who will add to Washington gridlock? The future of our nation may hang in the balance.

I'm casting my vote for Rick Berg. I hope you'll join me.

Rep. Kim Koppelman

(Koppelman has served in the North Dakota House of Representatives since 1994. He chairs the Constitutional Revision and Administrative Rules Committees and is the past national chairman of the Council of State Governments)