Election 2018: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp fights for second term
NORTH DAKOTA — The eyes of the nation, Washington, and the U.S. Senate will be on North Dakota this fall.
The race between Heidi Heitkamp and Kevin Cramer is considered one of the key races that could tip the scales of power in the Senate.
WDAY's Dana Mogck spoke with both Heitkamp and Cramer ahead of the race.
"It'll be frantic. It'll be fun, though," says Heitkamp.
It will also be expensive.
Estimates are each candidate will spend nearly $10 million, and that doesn't account for special interest ads, which could be another $30 million.
In North Dakota. For one Senate seat.
The ads are already running.
In the first, a conservative group used an impersonator, claiming Heitkamp has been giving public money to political donors.
"The first thing you say is, 'I hope people don't think that's me," says Heitkamp.
She says it's not accurate, and thinks it's sad the ads are already negative.
She also finds it kind of funny.
"I think I have nicer calves, to which my brother says, 'no, you don't.' I know I have better shoes."
Cramer has the deep pockets of oil billionaire Harold Hamm behind him.
Heitkamp isn't worried.
She says she's been out-spent and out-gunned before, but in 2012, she defeated Rick Berg.
A Democrat winning in a Republican state.
"I prioritize a little bit with my heart and I legislate on facts and with my head," says Heitkamp. "I think when people respect that you know what you're talking about, that you're an honest broker, and that you can, in fact, walk across the aisle, shake a hand, and say, 'let's get going,' you get a lot of opportunity to legislate."
Heitkamp thinks this election will come down to ag issues.
She says North Dakota farmers need an administration that will build markets, not walls, with a trade war and tariffs.
"Congress needs to decide at what point do they intervene," says Heitkamp. "The administration has a lot of leeway right now on trade because of how trade is organized. I think we need to be sending some signals that there are guardrails, that the administration cannot drive us off the guardrails and into a ravine."
Heitkamp describes her votes as independent and fact-based.
She says she's proud of lifting the ban on oil exports, Savanna's Act to protect Native American women, and her work to shine a light on human trafficking.
The last one ended with President Trump signing a bill against online sex trafficking.
The race is old hat for Heitkamp.
She ran for Tax Commissioner in 1986, and won.
She ran for Attorney General in 1992, and won.
Then, Governor in 2000. She lost.
Finally, she became the first elected woman to serve in the Senate from North Dakota.
She says she can win again, the only way she knows how.
"I think in North Dakota, it's still a state where you can win a race one-one-one, where you can win shaking hands, where people who support you..."
Dana: "Boots on the ground?"
Heitkamp thinks if she can get 160,000 votes, she'll return to Washington.
You can find Dana's interview with her challenger, Rep. Kevin Cramer, here.