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Dale Wetzel, Associated Press
Republican Shane Goettle, a former director of the North Dakota Department of Commerce, speaks during a U.S. House candidates' debate sponsored by a group of North Dakota conservative organizations on Friday, Jan. 20, 2012, in the Bismarck and Burleigh County City/County Building in Bismarck, N.D. Five North Dakota GOP House candidates and one Libertarian candidate took part in the debate.

BISMARCK, N.D. — Six North Dakota U.S. House candidates declared their support for spending cuts, dumping the new federal health care law and overhauling the income tax during a debate Friday sponsored by a group of conservative organizations.

Four of the five Republicans who participated said they would support establishing a single, flat rate for the federal income tax. The fifth, Shane Goettle, a former director of the North Dakota Department of Commerce, said he backed a "simpler, flatter" tax.

"The bottom line is, taxes are too high, the tax code is complex, it's antiquated, and it needs to be replaced," said state Rep. Kim Koppelman, R-West Fargo.

Eric Olson, a Libertarian, said the federal income tax should be phased out.

Republicans Kevin Cramer, Brian Kalk and Bette Grande also spoke during the debate.

Kalk said one target for cutting spending would be to eliminate military aid to Pakistan and other countries that he said do not support the United States. Grande ticked off a list of federal agencies to abolish, including the Energy, Education and Commerce departments.

Goettle said federal entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, had to be reined in, alhough none of the candidates offered many specifics about how to do so.

"We really don't make much progress on this budget unless we are willing to put some ideas (forward) that will tackle the entitlement programs," he said. "That's the mandatory spending that is really out of control."

All six candidates said the new federal health care law should be abolished or overhauled.

"It has to be repealed in its totality. Just rip it out by the root. There is nothing that needs to stay in place. You don't tinker around the edges with it," Grande said.

Goettle said the law needed to be replaced by a more "consumer-driven" health care system that would allow people to keep health insurance coverage as they move from job to job.

The conservative groups invited all of North Dakota's declared candidates for the U.S. House, U.S. Senate and governor for the debate.

Of the Senate candidates, only Republican Duane Sand showed up. Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Heidi Heitkamp and Tom Potter and Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Berg, who is running for the Senate seat this year, did not appear.

Paul Sorum, who is challenging incumbent GOP Gov. Jack Dalrymple for the party's endorsement to run for governor, was the only person among three declared candidates for governor to appear. Dalrymple and his declared Democratic challenger, state Sen. Ryan Taylor, D-Towner, skipped the debate. Taylor is the North Dakota Senate's Democratic floor leader.

The declared Democratic candidate for the U.S. House, Pam Gulleson, and DuWayne Hendrickson, who has said he is running for the Republican endorsement for the U.S. House, did not attend.