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Published November 02, 2010, 08:05 PM

Hoeven Wins US Senate After Decade as ND Governor

North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven has won the U.S. Senate race, making him the first Republican from the state to hold that office in a quarter-century.

By: Associated Press,

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota voters elected Gov. John Hoeven to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, making him the state's first Republican senator in a quarter-century.

Hoeven easily outpolled poorly funded Democrat Tracy Potter for the Senate seat now held by retiring Democrat Byron Dorgan, according to Associated Press analysis of exit poll data.

"I think we'll bring a commonsense approach to Washington," Hoeven said. "That's what we've been about in North Dakota for over a decade."

Hoeven won the last two elections for governor with more than 70 percent of the vote in North Dakota, which boasts a nearly $1 billion budget surplus and the lowest employment rate in the nation, due largely to an oil boom in the western part of the state.

"My No. 1 job in the Senate will be getting jobs for the 15 million-plus people and getting this economy going, just as we have in North Dakota," Hoeven said. "We need better fiscal responsibility, and we need a comprehensive energy policy."

Hoeven, 53, is the only governor in state history to win three four-year terms. First elected in 2000, he is currently the nation's longest-tenured governor.

The GOP also took Senate seats from Democrats in Arkansas and Indiana on Tuesday, making headway into the Democrats' majority.

A banker and former Democrat, Hoeven swapped parties four years before his first successful gubernatorial run a decade ago.

Hoeven raised more than $3.1 million for his campaign through September, or about $3 million more than Potter, Federal Election Commission filings show.

Potter, 60, works as director of a private foundation that maintains a historic site near Mandan.

"It's not unexpected, of course," Potter said of his defeat. "We took on this task knowing it was a very, very long shot.

"He's a popular governor in a Republican year and we knew he'd have all the financial resources he'd need," Potter said.

The U.S. Senate race was Potter's first statewide campaign, and he was the only declared Democratic candidate for the Senate seat being vacated by Dorgan, who announced in January he would not seek his fourth term. Hoeven announced a week later that he would seek the GOP's endorsement for the Senate seat.

Some polls had even favored Hoeven over Dorgan in mock matchup.

Hoeven has about two years remaining on his current term as governor. Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who has been Hoeven's running mate since the pair were elected a decade ago, will finish out the term and will be able to appoint his own successor as lieutenant governor.

Click here for the full vote count