FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Voters enjoying a robust economy fostered by western North Dakota's oil boom showed support Tuesday for the smaller government and tax cuts advocated by Republicans.
Led by Mitt Romney in the presidential race and Gov. Jack Dalrymple, the GOP won three of the top four races on the ballot, and Republican Rep. Rick Berg remained locked in a tight race with Democrat Heidi Heitkamp for the U.S. Senate.
Republican Kevin Cramer was elected to replace Berg in the U.S. House.
Voters said the strong GOP showing was a referendum not only on President Barack Obama, but an endorsement of the GOP's handling of an oil boom that has enabled the state to defy a national economic slump. Even Heitkamp's strong showing in a race with a razor-thin margin was somewhat anti-Obama: She's been harshly critical of the president's energy policy, is pro-oil and supports gun rights.
Nationally, "it is becoming too big government, too socialistic, too high taxes, less and less personal rights, less and less constitution, less and less everything," said Mark Nettum, 70, a retiree from Fargo who voted Republican across the board.
Tom Shockman, a Fargo money manager, voted straight Republican, too. The 50-year-old said he favors smaller government and thinks it has grown too big under Obama.
"That's how the founders built it. They wanted control with the states," Shockman said. "They didn't want a big centralized government, that's where they came from."
North Dakota has risen from the nation's ninth-leading oil producer to No. 2 behind Texas in just six years, with the oil industry adding thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars to the state economy. It's put the state in a unique position, with a projected $1.6 billion in surplus money, while most states are drowning in debt.
The governor's race focused on management of that growth, with Dalrymple maintaining he's done a good job of balancing spending on public works with tax cuts and Democratic challenger Ryan Taylor saying the state could do more to help local governments deal with problems created by oil-related development.
Dalrymple said his victory shows that citizens agree with his plan for improving the state's infrastructure, lowering taxes and maintaining fiscal responsibility.