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EXPANDED: Potter, Hoeven face off on issues in first debate

Republican Gov. John Hoeven and Democratic-NPL state Sen. Tracy Potter held their own against one another in the first of two verbal sparring matches set for North Dakota's U.S.

Tracy Potter makes his point
U.S. Senate candidate and Democratic-NPL state Sen. Tracy Potter makes his point during Thursday's debate in Fargo. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

Republican Gov. John Hoeven and Democratic-NPL state Sen. Tracy Potter held their own against one another in the first of two verbal sparring matches set for North Dakota's U.S. Senate race.

During a one-hour debate Thursday afternoon, Hoeven and Potter defined their positions on issues, ranging from the economy to gays in the military.

At times, the debate turned heated, as Hoeven and Potter criticized each other's policy proposals and records in North Dakota government.

But offering quick wit, both candidates also drew a couple of chuckles from the crowd of about 100 who'd gathered to watch the debate at the Ramada Plaza and Suites in Fargo.

The only other debate Hoeven and Potter have planned is a taped debate Oct. 1 with Prairie Public Broadcasting.


Libertarian Senate candidate Keith Hanson of West Fargo was not invited to participate in Thursday's debate, which was sponsored by the North Dakota Broadcasters Association.

Here's what the candidates had to say Thursday:


  • Potter said he supports the extension of the Bush tax cuts for all but those who earn more than $250,000 a year. That approach will help stimulate the economy while also addressing the budget deficit, he said.
  • Hoeven didn't specify to what extent he'd support continuing the Bush tax cuts but said taxes shouldn't be raised during a down economy. Instead, government should empower businesses to invest and create jobs, he said. Federal spending

  • Potter advocated for a reduced military presence overseas as a way to cut spending but said troops should be well taken care of when they return home.
  • Hoeven said cuts can be made through reducing aid to foreign countries and cracking down on fraud and abuse in entitlement programs, such as Medicare. Stimulus

  • Potter said the government had to take action and the stimulus has had a positive effect, but he wants more of it to be spent on infrastructure projects.
  • Hoeven said the stimulus plan hasn't worked. Government intervention should have focused on job creation through empowering small business, he said. Social security

  • Potter proposes lifting the cap on who pays into Social Security and reducing the tax. He said the system needs to be balanced annually, not funded for years into the future.
  • Hoeven offered no specific solution to ensure Social Security's solvency. He attacked Potter's proposal and said the government must enable business to invest and create jobs. Energy

  • Potter said the U.S. needs to invest in energy technology. He said Hoeven failed to plan long-term in meeting the challenges of North Dakota's oil boom.
  • Hoeven touted the state's energy policy, Empower North Dakota, as a model for the country to spur investment in alternative and renewable energy. Health care reform

  • Potter said the bill is "a step in the right direction." He praised various benefits, such as better Medicare reimbursements to North Dakota providers.
  • Hoeven said "there's a ton of work" needed to fix the health care reform bill, such as tort reform, transparency and competition to empower individuals. Immigration

  • Potter takes a position similar to Hoeven's, but added that he would also favor a level of amnesty for children of illegal immigrants.
  • Hoeven said the U.S. needs to secure its borders and crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. 'Don't ask, don't tell'

  • Potter called for the elimination of the controversial policy, saying the U.S. needs to "welcome the service of any American who wants to serve."
  • Hoeven said the military's policy is working and he would oppose repealing it. He said military leadership should be consulted on any changes. Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541

  • Tracy Potter makes his point
    Republican U.S. Senate candidate and governor of North Dakota John Hoeven discusses an issue during Thursday's debate in Fargo. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

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