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Marijuana, ethics measure, House seat add to ND ballot

November 7, 2018

FILE - This combination of file photos shows North Dakota Senate candidates in the November 2018 election from left, incumbent Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and her Republican challenger Kevin Cramer. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy, File)

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The biggest prize in North Dakota on Tuesday was the state’s U.S. Senate seat, where Republican Kevin Cramer derailed the re-election bid of Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp to give the GOP wins in both congressional races.

The state ballot had plenty of other items worth voters’ attention. Just two years after voters said yes to medicinal marijuana, they rejected the idea of extending that right to recreational pot. Here’s a rundown on the election:

MARIJUANA

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 lined up solidly against legalization, arguing it would lead to more violent crime, driving 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.”

ETHICS MEASURE

North Dakota Democrats might have something to celebrate in the form of an amendment to the North Dakota Constitution meant to overhaul government ethics, but it was still too close to call.

The so-called “anti-corruption” measure was leading by a narrow margin as the final votes were being tallied. Although the initiative is sponsored by a bi-partisan 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.”

NONCITIZEN VOTING

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.”

Rebecca Grey Bull, 32, a child welfare worker in Bismarck, voted against it, saying: “You can be here legally, working, paying taxes, without renouncing your citizenship to another country.”

U.S. HOUSE

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.”

SECRETARY OF STATE

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.

LEGISLATURE

Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers of the Legislature, and that wasn’t likely to change Tuesday. Democrats were hoping to knock off a whale, longtime House Majority Leader Al Carlson, in his south Fargo district. Carlson was third in the race for two spots as final votes were being tallied.

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For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

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