The owner of a real estate firm, Berg represented Fargo in the state legislature for more than two decades and helped engineer a turnaround in the state budget.
Many here fear that if Obama wins a second term, an emboldened Environmental Protection Agency will impose new regulations that will end the state’s oil boom. And there is deep unhappiness with Obama’s decision to delay construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
“We’re very old-school pro-business here,” said Vicky Steiner, a Republican state representative who serves as executive director of the North Dakota Association of Oil and Gas Producing Counties. “In some states, people say ‘not in my back yard.’ Here, we believe that our resources should be developed.”
The Obama factor
Heitkamp has worked aggressively to distance herself from Obama, criticizing the Keystone decision and his failure to make good on promises to unify the country.
But she’s said she plans to vote for Obama in November and would support Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to retain the Senate’s top post if elected.
Said Berg: “If they want someone who they can trust, who’s going to fight against the president’s failed policies, like Obamacare, they’ll support me. The alternative is someone who has campaigned for the president, supports Obamacare and has endorsed his agenda.”
Many North Dakotans are suspicious of politicians who take credit for what they see as the good fortune of having oil in the ground and innovative companies with new technologies to drill it.
But a good number also think there is a hardworking self-reliance here that does not exist in the rest of the country.
“If you stand out by the side of the road with a sign asking for money in oil country, they’ll throw rocks at you,” said James Goeres, 47, who worked in the oil patch for more than 20 years.
Now he drives around the state selling bumper stickers from the window of his Christmas-light-festooned RV, plastered with his wares.
Goeres calls Heitkamp a “bulldog” and praised her fighting spirit. But among the thousands of car stickers he sells, the politically themed are all anti-Obama. (“Honk if you like Obama — so I can flip you off,” reads one.)
“That’s simple,” he said. “Nobody here likes Obama. He’s anti-oil.”
Scott Clement contributed to this report.