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North Dakota Democrat defies odds, wins Senate seat

November 07, 2012|By Lisa Mascaro
(L.M. Otero / Associated…)

WASHINGTON -- Democrat Heidi Heitkamp emerged with a long-shot Senate victory in North Dakota, a Republican stronghold that the GOP considered one of its best opportunities to pick up a seat. But the results were close enough that the Republican can demand a recount.

Heitkamp, the state’s former attorney general, offered a spirited campaign against Republican Rep. Rick Berg with a compelling narrative as a centrist Democrat at odds with President Obama. She had a 3,000-vote margin with all precincts reporting, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Berg is a freshman at-large member of the House who won office in 2010 on the tea party wave and a commitment to repeal the nation’s new healthcare law. His campaign declined to comment on the race until election officials conduct a canvass and certify the results early next week.

The congressman ran a lower-profile campaign in the Republican-leaning state, which the party thought would easily land in the GOP column. Late in the campaign, Berg got a boost with an ad from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who won the state.

The seat came open with the retirement of longtime Sen. Kent Conrad, a moderate Democrat. It represented one of the top prizes for Republicans this campaign season as they tried to wrest control of the upper chamber from Democrats.

In the final stretch, Bill Clinton rallied for Heitkamp while Republican Sen. John McCain swooped in for Berg.

lisa.mascaro@latimes.com

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