North Dakota GOP Representative Announces Campaign to Challenge Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

As Election Day 2018 creeps closer, Republicans are eager to not just hold their Senate advantage, but also to somehow steal away a few more Democratic seats in an effort to secure a super-majority and pass legislation unimpeded. To make that happen, they’re focused on a handful of vulnerable Democratic senators in more conservative states, seeing them as the best chance for an upset.

That task may have just gotten harder, however, since the GOP’s new challenger to North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp shows just how toxic the Republican party name is this cycle.

Heitkamp is likely one of the strongest of the Democrats in conservative states, despite the dark red landscape of North Dakota. She’s voted with President Donald Trump’s agenda slightly more than half of the time since he took office, a factor that could weigh heavily in her Trump-friendly environment.

Still, the GOP hopes to use that other 47 percent disagreement to their advantage. The Grand Forks Herald reports:

Of all the 2018 Senate elections with Democratic incumbents, North Dakota ranks the second-highest in Trump support in the 2016 election. He won about 63 percent of the state’s ballots, behind only West Virginia’s 68 percent, and North Dakotans gave him a 57 percent approval rating across 2017, according Gallup data published in January.

What’s more, Heitkamp only won her seat in 2012 by a margin of less than 3,000 votes.

What that means, then, is a Senate race that focuses on every single voter — one that the Herald predicts will be the most expensive race per voter in the nation’s history.

With a vulnerable Democratic seat at play, you’d expect that Republicans would put the strongest challenger they could find up against the incumbent. Instead, however, they have Rep. Kevin Cramer up at bat.

The GOP touts him as a personal recruit, with the White House influence all over the campaign run. NBC News reports:

Cramer, the state’s lone House member and a close ally of President Donald Trump, has long been considered the blue-chip recruit for Republican. He announced in January that he wouldn’t challenge Heitkamp, but White House officials, party leaders and Cramer’s home-state supporters continued to pressure him to jump in.

The GOP may be singing his praises today, but they weren’t nearly as enthusiastic about him back in April, when Cramer first implied that he might be interested in a run. At the time, CNN reported:

Top Republicans in Washington are privately sending this message to a GOP congressman once viewed as a top recruit in North Dakota: Don’t run against Sen. Heidi Heitkamp next year.

Republicans now are fearful that Cramer could damage their chances if he commits gaffes like GOP candidate Todd Akin did in 2012 when he cost his party a chance to pickup the Missouri Senate seat. “On paper, it looks like he could win, but he also appears to have a few Akin-like tendencies that make a lot of people nervous,” said one Senate GOP campaign veteran, who, like other top Republicans, asked for anonymity to assess the field candidly.

So what happened in the last 11 months to turn Cramer from the party’s worst nightmare into the party’s best shot? Probably nothing, and that well may be why the GOP wants him to run in the Senate instead of the House.

Because of North Dakota’s sparse population, the House of Representatives office is also a statewide campaign — there’s just one representative for the entire state. Cramer would essentially be running the same statewide race, regardless of which office he pursues, but losing to a Democrat in the Senate wouldn’t change the balance of power at all.

Losing the House race, on the other hand, would mean a Democratic pickup. And with the House majority already looking alarmingly vulnerable, it’s a risk the GOP is probably unwilling to take.

By convincing businessman Tom Campbell to run for Cramer’s seat, the Republican party can have an untested, wealthy candidate with no political baggage self-fund a Congressional race that’s a must-win for keeping the party in power in the House. By moving the volatile, politically incorrect and often offensive Cramer to the Senate race, the GOP has far less to lose should Cramer inevitably mire himself in controversy on the campaign trail, like so many seem to expect him to do.

Winning reelection in 2018 will still be no cakewalk for Sen. Heitkamp. But with the GOP essentially admitting that the race isn’t worth the investment of supporting a stronger challenger, it’s clear that when it comes to possible flips, North Dakota is near the bottom of the list for Republicans.

Photo credit: State of North Dakota/Wikimedia Commons


Winn A
Winn A8 days ago

Down with the GOP candidates in all states in all elections.

Just H
Just H8 days ago

A GOP super majority is unthinkable. It would be just swell for the super rich. For the rest of us, not so swell.

Chrissie R
Chrissie R8 days ago

Thank you for posting. I'm sick of political talk......

Danuta W
Danuta W8 days ago

Thank you for posting.

Anne M
Anne Moran9 days ago

Good luck...

Vania G
Vania G9 days ago

Obrigada pela informação

Peggy B
Peggy B9 days ago


Wesley Struebing

Yeah, she probably won't go down to defeat, but that will be mostly because of the doofuses runing as GOP'ers...And it should be an easy pickup for them.

Cathy B
Cathy B9 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

Ian Crory
Ian Crory9 days ago