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Cramer to bring lead counsel for U.S. Commerce Department to Grafton for trade talk

Rep. Kevin Cramer answers questions from the Grand Forks Herald editorial board Wednesday afternoon. (Joshua Komer/Grand Forks Herald)

GRAFTON, N.D.—The Republican candidate for North Dakota's U.S. Senate race will bring a lead attorney for the U.S. Department of Commerce to northeast North Dakota.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., will be in Grafton Friday afternoon with Peter Davidson, chief counsel to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. Cramer said he's bringing Davidson to the Choice Financial Community Room at 38 W. Sixth St. to discuss trade issues with the public.

"Peter's relationship with us is long term and it's quite personable." Cramer said, referring to both their friendship and the adviser's experience in Minnesota and North Dakota.

Davidson already was coming to the state this weekend to celebrate his Icelandic heritage at the Deuce, an annual celebration in Mountain, N.D. Cramer said he convinced Davidson to make a quick stop.

"We just thought Grafton would be the perfect spot because there's a lot of interest and there's a lot of agriculture there, and it's a good sized community," Cramer said.

The congressman hopes to discuss several different trade topics, he said, including the recent European Union agreement and the situation on NAFTA discussions.

Cramer said he's up to discuss whatever issues arise but wants to focus on trade.

"What I don't want to do is waste the opportunity to dig into trade when we have (Davidson's) experience and brain power present," he said.

The U.S. House selected Cramer earlier this month as one of several conferees for farm bill negotiations with the U.S. Senate. Cramer said he wants to keep farm bill and trade talks separate at the Grafton event, adding he's grateful for the Trump administration's recent aid announcements that would give $12 billion to farmers affected by a trade war with China.

"It allows us to keep that stuff apart from the farm bill because the farm bill itself is so politically complicated," he said, adding the aid and farm bill are separate issues.

Cramer said he hopes his fellow North Dakotans in the U.S. Senate—Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and John Hoeven, R-N.D.,—are chosen to be a part of the farm bill negotiations team.

"That'd be really cool... having both House and Senate, Republican and Democrat," he said. "We'd probably do OK for North Dakota."

Koch brothers

Cramer has been dealing with more than trade this week. The Koch brothers, who have traditionally donated to Republican campaigns, announced they will not endorse Cramer's run for U.S. Senate against Heitkamp.

An official with the Koch network told CNN Monday Cramer "is not leading on the issues where this country needs leadership the most right now."

Cramer insisted Tuesday the Koch brothers likely declined to donate because they have different opinions regarding open borders, trade and the farm bill.

"I think the farm bill represents, in their mind, too much government involvement in business and in markets," Cramer said. "I respect them because I like their company. I think they do a lot of important work, obviously."

But Cramer and his campaign were never expecting a Koch brother donation, the candidate said.

"What's intriguing to me is, had the Koch brothers endorsed me and put $3 million into my effort, it wouldn't have even been a big deal," he said. "But the fact they chose not to seems to be the biggest headline in America today."

After the Koch brothers announcement, Cramer said online donations soared.

"My online fundraising never been so good," Cramer said. "Ever since they made the announcement, the online fundraising just went into high gear. Like someone fired a starting gun."

Cramer declined to share just how much he had raised.

Emily Allen

Allen joined the Grand Forks Herald to cover local government and politics May 2018. Call her at 701-780-1102, email her at or follow her on Twitter, @Emily_theHerald.

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