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Republicans sweep rural district

Rural Cass County voters returned all three of its Republican incumbents to the North Dakota Legislature on Tuesday. In the House race in District 22, one-time Majority Leader Wesley Belter - first elected in 1984 - topped a four-way race for two...

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Rural Cass County voters returned all three of its Republican incumbents to the North Dakota Legislature on Tuesday.

In the House race in District 22, one-time Majority Leader Wesley Belter - first elected in 1984 - topped a four-way race for two seats with 28 percent in complete but unofficial results.

Vonnie Pietsch took 25 percent of votes to win re-election to the other House seat in District 22, which covers rural areas in Cass County and the eastern North Dakota cities of Horace, Kindred and Casselton. Pietsch squeaked by Democrats Keith Gohdes, who had 24 percent, and Allan Peterson, who took 23 percent.

Gary Lee won handily in the Senate race, drawing 56 percent of votes to Democrat John Lund's 44 percent.

Only 89 votes separated Pietsch and Gohdes. The 72-year-old widow and former administrative assistant at North Dakota State University thought she had lost for a few moments Tuesday, after seeing a tally that had her behind with all precincts - but not early and absentee votes -included in the total.

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"Whatever was in their thinking hats, I'm glad it was going this direction," Pietsch, who won her second full term, said of District 22 voters.

She pointed to her work on human services as a factor in her victory. "There isn't anything that I wouldn't promote or help the most vulnerable people and the aged," she said.

Belter, a 63-year-old farmer, credited his win to his balanced representation of his constituents, while Lee said voters saw that the trio of lawmakers produced results.

"I think people responded to the positive things that have been going in our state - good jobs and the state of our economy," said Lee, 61, who manages the MeritCare Sleep Disorders Center.

Belter had 4,646 votes, and Pietsch had 4,192. Gohdes drew 4,103, and Peterson had 3,811. Lee's 5,212 votes topped Lund's tally of 4,066.

"It was a hard-fought race," Lee said. "Our opponents worked hard. People saw what we had done and were ready to send us back."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535

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