Sept. 11, 2015 — The post Labor Day period is already bringing clarity to various Senate races, including several within the last day or two.
Speculation surrounding Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) jumping into the open North Dakota governor’s race was put to bed earlier this week. Sen. Heitkamp announced that she will not enter the state campaign and instead will complete her first senate term. Heitkamp was elected in 2012 and comes in-cycle three years from now.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee leadership was concerned that Heitkamp would run for governor. Though she would not have risked her Senate seat to run, had she been victorious, a new succession law the legislature and Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) adopted this term takes the appointment power away from the governor pertaining to Senate vacancies. Instead, their action now requires calling an immediate special election. The chances of Republicans being able to convert an open North Dakota seat in a special 2017 vote would be very high, hence the importance of the national party leaders prevailing upon Sen. Heitkamp to forego a gubernatorial bid.
Aug. 26, 2015 — Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s (R) semi-surprising announcement Monday that he is not going to seek a second full term is launching North Dakota politicos into motion. The biggest question surrounds US Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D), and whether she will enter what is now an open race for governor.
Though North Dakota has become a solidly Republican state, Heitkamp successfully won her Senate seat in 2012 nipping then-at-large Rep. Rick Berg (R), 50-49 percent. But, the governor’s office is what drives her political desire. From her post as the state’s two-term attorney general, Heitkamp ran for ND’s top office in 2000, but a diagnosis of breast cancer slowed her ability to compete. She fell to current Republican Sen. John Hoeven (55-45 percent) for what would be his first of three terms as the state’s chief executive.
Earlier in the year, speculation began growing that Sen. Heitkamp was considering challenging Gov. Dalrymple. Even though she would have been a distinct underdog, her proven ability to win difficult races in a conservative state is established. At the very least, she would have been a formidable candidate and not have had to risk her Senate seat.