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Published January 14, 2010, 04:56 PM

Cramer Announces GOP House Bid

PCS Commissioner has lost twice to Pomeroy.

By: Dave Kolpack, AP

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Republican Kevin Cramer says he believes the timing is right to take a third run at incumbent Democrat Earl Pomeroy for the state's lone seat in the U.S. House.

Cramer's announcement Thursday that he would seek his party's endorsement was criticized by Democrats because Cramer said in September he would rather keep his spot on the Public Service Commission than run for Congress. Cramer said he changed his mind after Pomeroy "reneged on a promise" that he wouldn't vote for the health care reform bill.

"I welcome that debate as many times as they would want to throw it at me," Cramer said of Democrats. "I don't take breaking promises lightly, for sure."

Pomeroy declined comment Thursday. He said previously he didn't like everything in the House bill but voted for it to keep the process moving so the Senate could improve the proposal.

"In North Dakota, we don't keep bad ideas alive, we just kill 'em," Cramer said, clenching his teeth.

Cramer is 0-2 against Pomeroy, losing House races in 1996 and 1998. Cramer said his odds are better this time because America is moving in the wrong direction and Pomeroy's seniority should not be viewed as an asset.

"Let's get back to what these 18 years of seniority have given us," Cramer said, referring to Pomeroy's tenure in the House. "They have given us Nancy Pelosi, Henry Waxman, Ed Markey, Barney Frank, Charlie 'I'm Ethically Challenged' Rangel, the head of the Ways and Means Committee that Earl sits on.

"If that's what 18 years of seniority gives us, I want to be rookie of the year," he said.

State Democratic Party officials did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment. In an earlier release, party chairman Mark Schneider said the "last thing North Dakota needs is a politician who'll do and say anything for his own gain."

Cramer said in September that a congressional campaign "would distract from my work on the Public Service Commission at a time when our responsibilities are as critical to the future of our state as any in history." He said Thursday that Pomeroy's vote for the health care bill "stirred" in him a "sense of responsibility" to run for House.

Bismarck insurance agent Paul Schaffner, a former North Dakota State University linebacker, also has declared his intentions to run for House. Fargo businessman and city commissioner Dave Piepkorn, an ex-NDSU lineman, said he is considering joining the race.

"I was a quarterback in high school and I spent way more time on my back than throwing passes," Cramer said. "I may need a lead blocker."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.