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Heated Senate race, other politics top news in North Dakota

December 22, 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. Cramer defeated Heitkamp in the midterm election. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy, File)

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The year in North Dakota was dominated by politics, from the hard-fought U.S. Senate race between Heidi Heitkamp and Kevin Cramer to a complimentary and controversial Super Bowl soiree that Gov. Doug Burgum attended and a Trump administration trade dispute that hit soybean farmers the hardest.

Elsewhere, the full story emerged of the slaying of a pregnant Fargo woman whose baby was cut from her womb, as two defendants were tried for the crime, and a company moved forward on an oil refinery near Theodore Roosevelt National Park. In sports, North Dakota State’s Bison continued to run roughshod over the FCS competition.

A look at some of the state’s top stories of 2018:

SENATE RACE

Voters made Heitkamp a one-term senator when they opted for Cramer in a race that caught the nation’s attention and helped the GOP expand its control of the Senate. Heitkamp portrayed herself as an independent who wasn’t afraid to vote against her own party or vote with President Donald Trump. Cramer won by persuading North Dakota voters that his emphatic conservatism would serve them better than her occasional independence from her own party. He also took advantage of a state that loves Trump , who visited North Dakota twice to promote Cramer.

BURGUM-SUPER BOWL TRIP

Burgum and his wife were guests of a Minneapolis utility at the Super Bowl, a trip that wound up costing the governor $37,000. That’s what he repaid Xcel Energy after he was criticized for taking perks that included seats in a suite, private parties, meals and other events. Supporters of a constitutional amendment to overhaul North Dakota’s government ethics cited Burgum’s trip as a selling point. The measure passed in November. Burgum later created the first ethics policy for the governor’s office.

WOMAN KILLED, BABY TAKEN

A man and a woman who lived together in a Fargo apartment were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in killing a woman and cutting the baby from her womb. Brooke Crews pleaded guilty to murder conspiracy in the August 2016 death of 22-year-old Savanna Greywind. Her boyfriend, William Hoehn, was found not guilty of the same charge during a trial that revealed new details in the case. Hoehn said he had nothing to do with Greywind’s death but admitted he helped cover up the crime. The Greywind case prompted Heitkamp to introduce Savanna’s Act, which aims to improve tribal access to federal crime information databases, among other things. The bill was being held up in the House as the year came to a close.

VOTER ID

Advocacy groups and others undertook an intense last-minute effort to get Native America voters to the polls after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in October allowed the state to continue requiring street addresses on voter IDs, as opposed to addresses such as post office boxes that are commonly used on reservations. Groups offered free qualifying IDs and free rides to the polls. In the end, experts said it’s likely that only a few dozen people were unable to cast ballots.

TRADE-SOYBEANS

Soybean farmers saw the value of their crop plummet amid a Trump administration trade war with China, the top export market for North Dakota beans. China began buying U.S. soybeans again toward the end of the year under a three-month truce , but farmers were lobbying for more federal aid to tide them over until trade with the world’s second-largest economy becomes more settled.

DAVIS REFINERY

Meridian Energy Group began site work for an $800 million oil refinery near Theodore Roosevelt National Park in July, a month after receiving an air quality permit from the state Health Department that deemed the refinery a minor source of pollution. Environmental groups that fear pollution in the park are fighting the permit in state court.

MARIJUANA

North Dakota’s Health Department continued building a system for medical marijuana, at a slower pace than voters expected when they approved the measure in 2016. Companies were named to open dispensaries in Bismarck, Fargo, Grand Forks and Williston. Citizens decided they weren’t ready for recreational marijuana, however, rejecting an initiated measure.

DAKOTA ACCESS OIL PIPELINE

Legal battles related to the Dakota Access oil pipeline continued to surface or play out in 2018. Four tribes continued their lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C., hoping to shut down the $3.8 billion pipeline that’s moving North Dakota oil to a shipping point in Illinois. Several other suits were filed, including a civil complaint by a New York woman who suffered a serious arm injury while protesting.

CORPORATE FARMING

A federal judge upheld North Dakota’s Depression-era anti-corporate farming law . North Dakota Farm Bureau and others sued in 2016 to do away with the law that voters approved in 1932 to protect the state’s family farming heritage. The suit said the law limits farmers’ business options and interferes with interstate commerce.

BISON FOOTBALL

The North Dakota State football team returned to the top of the Championship Football Subdivision in the first week of January, defeating James Madison in the title game in Frisco, Texas. The Bison had won five straight titles from 2012-2016 before losing to James Madison in the 2017 semifinals. Now they are shooting for No. 6. Next month’s championship game will be the last at NDSU for coach Chris Klieman, who’s headed to Kansas State.

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