In North Dakota, A Tale Of Two Ticket-Splitters

In West Fargo, N.D., voters have a tradition of sending one party to the White House and the other to Congress. Two voters maintained that tradition — but not as you'd expect. North Dakota's Senate race is still too close to call.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Voters in North Dakota famously like to mix things up - sending one party to the White House; the other, to Congress. In a closely watched Senate race there, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp narrowly leads the count vote - the vote count. But Republican Rick Berg says he won't concede the race until a recount is complete.

The race hinged on voters like those our reporter Neta Ulaby found.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: It's a tale of two ticket-splitters. Both are registered Republicans who braved the bite of the November prairie winds, to vote in an elementary school in West Fargo. Ticket-splitter number one is named Gary Hanson. He just turned 70.

GARY HANSON: Happy for that, I guess; that I'm still around. But ...(Laughter)

ULABY: Hanson voted for Mitt Romney. And for U.S. Senate?

HANSON: For somebody from my hometown - Heidi Heitkamp.

ULABY: Wait - she's a Democrat. But Gary Hanson says his vote was not about the politics, but...

HANSON: The person. The person - and I think she's a person of great character and ethics. And she has a lot of sound values.

ULABY: But our second ticket-splitter, Nicole Christianson, voted against Heitkamp for Senate. She voted for the Republican, Rick Berg. Christianson is 28, a pharmacist, and...

NICOLE CHRISTIANSON: I work in a community health center, so I did vote for Obama.

ULABY: For Obama.

CHRISTIANSON: He was very instrumental in providing a grant four years ago, for us to open a new community health center, called Family Healthcare. So that's why I voted for him.

ULABY: Ticket-splitting is a proud North Dakota tradition. The state's voted for Republican presidents, and a Democratic senator, regularly - for decades. One resident explained the logic like this: You need the Democrats to get the money. You need the Republicans, to keep it in the state.

Neda Ulaby, NPR News, Fargo.

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