FARGO – After 12 years of absence, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp wants to return to a statewide ballot next November, and this time, it’s for federal office.
North Dakota’s former attorney general officially announced her campaign for the U.S. Senate in an early morning statement to statewide media, bringing truth to weeks of hype and speculation over her intentions.
“I will be a candidate to represent North Dakota in the United States Senate,” she said. “Washington is badly broken and our state needs an independent voice who will go there to stand up for North Dakota. With me, the people of North Dakota always have and always will come first.”
Heitkamp said she’s planning campaign kick-off events in the near future to meet with supporters and voters.
Heitkamp, 56, will face Grand Forks Democrat the Rev. Tom Potter at the Democratic-NPL‘s nominating convention in March.
But the likely match-up next November appears to be between Heitkamp and Rep. Rick Berg, a freshman Republican who’s giving up his seat in the House for a chance at the upper chamber. (Berg faces his own inner-party challenge from perennial candidate Duane Sand.)
With veteran Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad retiring next year, his Senate seat is up for grabs.
Rumors first circulated in early October that Heitkamp had had a change of heart regarding a bid for the U.S. Senate, and Politico reported last week that she was finalizing her plans before the official launch of her campaign.
Anticipating a Heitkamp bid, state Republicans purchased full-page ads in The Forum and The Bismarck Tribune last week, aiming to target Heitkamp’s “liberal record.” In response to Heitkamp’s official announcement today, chairman Stan Stein had a similar message.
“It’s clear that President Obama wants Heidi Heitkamp in Washington, but North Dakotans need a United States Senator who will stand up for our values and best interests,” Stein said in a statement.
This is the second time in as many years that Heitkamp has expressed interest in seeking a U.S. Senate seat. She had considered a run in early 2010 after former Sen. Byron Dorgan announced his retirement, but a few weeks later, she ultimately opted against a bid.
She said then that she didn’t desire to be a U.S. senator and that her “heart wasn’t in it” to seek that office. Her statement last spring left many believing she’d seek the Democrats’ nomination in the 2012 governor’s race.
Heitkamp has remained politically active behind the scenes in recent years, but she hasn’t been on a statewide ballot since her failed attempt at the governor’s office in 2000. She lost to now-Sen. John Hoeven by a 10-point margin.
Prior to that, Heitkamp served several terms each as North Dakota’s attorney general and tax commissioner. Since 2000, Heitkamp has worked as an attorney and served as a director of the Dakota Gasification energy company.