Races of the WeekSand vs. Pomeroy

As America has opened the World War II Memorial and continues to hail the fighting men who put the light of freedom on again in the world after evil men have shut it off, it is appropriate to recall those who also took to national politics following their discharges. John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Joseph R. McCarthy, to name a few, were young veterans who traded their fatigues and dress blues for congressional pinstripes in 1946. Each had a major impact on American politics in the postwar decades. Cut from that same cloth in the post-Cold War era is Duane Sand of North Dakota. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, the 39-year-old Sand served with distinction in the nuclear Navy. Following stints on three different nuclear submarines, Lt. Cmdr. Sand returned to his native Red River Valley in the Peace Garden State. All of those checks he had been sending home while overseas had collected some interest; Sand sank them into a restaurant and motel. With hard work from the young reserve officer and his wife Holly and a number of prayers, both businesses flourished. Four years ago, submariner Sand launched his maiden political voyage–choosing a bold destination: the United States Senate. To the surprise of many, the first-time candidate beat a better-known and much-favored state legislator at the Republican state convention. At more than 300 campaign stops, the tireless Sand slammed incumbent Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad for his liberal voting record. But, in the end, it was too much of an uphill battle: Conrad raised more than $2.3 million to Sand’s $400,000 and won with 62% of the vote. Another unsuccessful candidate might have grown discouraged and given up on politics. But for one who had faced numerous challenges in the Navy and in the business world, this was a mere stumble for Sand. As he put it, “The problem in North Dakota is that Republicans run a lot of good candidates for statewide office. But when they lose, they don’t come back. Sometimes you have to lose first in order to eventually win.” Accordingly, Sand is back this year, as the Republican nominee against his state’s lone U.S. House member, Democrat Earl Pomeroy. Based on his experiences reading ERs (Efficiency Reports) in the Navy and profit-loss statements in business, Sand knows when there’s a problem that needs solving. He freely admits his Senate campaign was “amateur night” and notes that his House race this year has “adult supervision.” Gene and Connie Nicholas, state legislator and Republican national committeewoman respectively, are offering their renowned political expertise and contacts as the Sand campaign’s co-chairmen. Beginning with serving as campaign driver for then-U. S. House candidate and now Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan in 1974, the 52-year-old Pomeroy has spent almost his entire adult life in politics or political office, so his liberal voting record (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 20%) is not surprising. He opposed all of the Bush tax cuts, fought repeals of the death tax, voted “no” on measures to require two-thirds of Congress to raise taxes and to cap outrageous lawsuits, and voted against overturning the punitively anti-business “ergonomics” regulations of the Clinton Administration, and racked up a pro-abortion, anti-2nd Amendment. Nonetheless Pomeroy has continued to win. But time, events, and the voters may finally be catching up to the congressman. Two years ago, an underfunded opponent drew a record 48% of the vote against Pomeroy. Sand follows in a noble tradition. Fifty-two years ago, another veteran and small businessman took to the political hustings against a seemingly unbeatable career politician. The fledgling candidate spoke plainly and simply about America’s doing noble deeds abroad and rolling back big government at home. The voters liked him and, in one of the major upsets of the year, they sent their “merchant prince” to the Senate in Washington. His name was Barry Goldwater.