Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) is up for re-election this November in a state President Donald Trump won by 36 points in 2016.
Heitkamp voted against the president’s signature Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December that has sparked huge economic growth, but three months before she faces a general election against Republican candidate Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) at the polls, she is telling the state’s voters, “My vote belongs to you and not a political party.”
On Thursday, her campaign sent an email to North Dakota voters with that message in the subject line, noting:
Today, NPR published a story on the North Dakota Senate race highlighting Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s independent record and popularity with North Dakota voters, saying “people here just seem to like her.” Heidi has a long track record of working with both sides to get results – lifting the ban on crude oil exports, cracking down on human trafficking and helping pave a viable path forward for North Dakota coal.
Also on Thursday, Heitkamp met with President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, and tweeted a photo and related story about that meeting in her Capitol Hill office:
— inforum (@inforum) August 16, 2018
The Senate is expected to vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation this fall, prior to the November 6 election. Heitkamp has given no indication whether she will vote for or against Kavanaugh. Her opponent, Rep. Cramer, in contrast, has declared his full support for Trump’s nominee.
President Trump has strongly endorsed Cramer in the Senate race. In June, the Bismarck Tribune reported:
President Trump backed GOP Senate hopeful Kevin Cramer, reaffirming his support after he officially endorsed him back in March. The tweet comes as anticipation ramps up for what is expected to be a hotly contested race with incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., in November’s general election.
The tweet from President Trump reads: “Congratulations to @kevincramer on his huge win in North Dakota. We need Kevin in the Senate, and I strongly endorse him. Heidi voted NO on our Tax Cuts, and always will vote no when we need her. Kevin is strong on Crime & Borders, big on Cutting Taxes!”
Thursday’s email from the Heitkamp campaign pointed readers to the highlights of the NPR story, titled “Heitkamp Stresses Independence As Path to Re-Election in Trump Country.”
But Heitkamp believes her personal warmth, energy and independent credentials are better qualities for a U.S. Senator than a record of voting 100 percent with Trump.
She’s the kind of politician who lives for parades and county fairs, who exudes the energy of a football coach and has an affable, neighborly greeting for everyone she meets. It’s something she’s famous for across the state.
“I say if you want someone who is going to vote with the president 100 percent of the time then I’m probably not your candidate,” Heitkamp said. “I don’t think the president is 100 percent right. I don’t think anyone’s 100 percent right. My vote belongs to you and not to a political party.”
It doesn’t hurt that many people here just seem to like her. […] From the moment Heitkamp arrived, she appeared in her element. She was shouting greetings to volunteers, taking selfies and joking about taking a turn in the dunk tank.
Cramer and Heitkamp often cross paths back home while they campaign, and on this night their differences couldn’t have been clearer. Where Heitkamp is buoyant, Cramer is subdued.
Heitkamp is staking her future on the belief that North Dakotans want a tough, dealmaking moderate, not a rubber stamp.
Bartlett doesn’t call herself a Democrat, but she’s voting Heitkamp this year. The tariff message helps, but Bartlett says she likes that Heitkamp is from a small town, cares about farmers and is personable.
The Heitkamp campaign email includes no reference to the pending confirmation vote in the Senate on President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Kavanaugh.
A Valley News Live/Mason Dixon Poll conducted in June showed Cramer with a four-point lead over Heitkamp, 48 percent to 44 percent. The poll had a four-point margin of error.