By Jim Ellis
Dec. 5, 2016 — Donald Trump may be looking to find cabinet members who bring him immediate tangible policy and political benefits. A new prospective appointee, if chosen, would even increase the president-elect’s strength in the United States Senate.
North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) made her way to New York yesterday to speak with Trump. If the president-elect tabbed her for an administration position, it would allow him to reach out to Democrats while simultaneously paving the way for incoming Gov. Doug Burgum (R) to appoint a Republican to replace her. Assuming John Kennedy (R) wins the Louisiana Senate run-off on Dec. 10, as expected, replacing Heitkamp would boost the Senate Republican Conference to 53 members.
The senator won a close upset victory in 2012, defeating one-term at-large Rep. Rick Berg (R) by a one-point margin. She is now preparing for what is likely to be a highly competitive 2018 re-election bid, but accepting a position in the Trump Administration would obviously require her to resign the Senate seat. With North Dakota voting patterns now going solidly Republican – Trump received 63 percent in the Nov. 8 election compared to 58 percent for Mitt Romney in 2012, and John McCain’s 53 percent eight years ago – Republican conversion prospects in a post-appointment election would be bright should Heitkamp depart.