FARGO (AP) - Voters enjoying the most robust economy in the nation, fostered by western North Dakota's oil boom, showered support Tuesday for the smaller government and tax cuts advocated by Republicans.
The GOP won three of the top four races on the ballot - president, governor and U.S. House - and Republican Rep. Rick Berg remained locked in a tight race with Democrat Heidi Heitkamp for the U.S. Senate. But Heitkamp was leading by nearly 5,000 votes at midnight with about 90 percent of the precincts reporting.
Voters said they trusted the Republican candidates to handle taxpayers' money, show fiscal restraint and not meddle too much in people's lives.
More specifically, Mark Nettum, 70, a retiree from Fargo, said he voted for Republican Mitt Romney because President Barack Obama and other Democrats have spent taxpayers' money and haven't helped the nation's economy.
"It is becoming too big government, too socialistic, too high taxes, less and less personal rights, less and less constitution, less and less everything," Nettum said. Romney carried North Dakota, but lost the race to Obama.
Tom Shockman, 50, a Fargo money manager, said he voted Republican because he also favors smaller government.
"That's how the founders built it. They wanted control with the states," he said. "They didn't want a big centralized government, that's where they came from."
The governor's race focused on management of that growth, with Gov. Jack Dalyrmple maintaining he's done a good job of balancing spending on public works with tax cuts and Democratic challenger Ryan Taylor saying the state should do more to help local governments deal with problems created by oil-related development.
Dalrymple said his victory shows that citizens agree with his plan for improving the state's infrastructure, lowering taxes and maintaining fiscal responsibility.
"''There's a whole different set of challenges when your state is doing well," the governor said. "Some of these judgment calls can get even more challenging. But we look forward to it, because so many things are going to become possible."
Carol Preston, 77, a Fargo retiree, said she voted for Green Party candidate Jill Stein for president and Heitkamp for Senate because she believes people in the highest income bracket should be paying more taxes. But Preston also voted for Dalrymple.
"I think Gov. Dalrymple has been a good governor," she said.
Willy Marler, 19, of Rogers, said he voted for Romney because he believes he'll do a better job on farm policy, but he picked Heitkamp over Berg.
"I think she supports North Dakota better. She understands North Dakota and the way we live up here," Marler said. "It's a lot different from New York City or Los Angeles."
Republican Kevin Cramer, a public service commissioner, defeated Democrat Pam Gulleson, a farmer and rancher who once served as a top aide to Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan, for North Dakota's lone house seat.
North Dakota residents approved four of five ballot measures. They agreed to expand the state's smoking ban to cover bars and other public places, prohibit the state from levying a tax on voting, protect farmers' rights, and require the governor and other elected officials to take an oath of office. Voters rejected a measure expanding the state's animal cruelty law.