Heitkamp hits the trail for Democratic Senate candidates

GRAND FORKS, N.D.--Heidi Heitkamp isn't up for re-election this year, but that doesn't mean she's staying off the campaign trail. The Democratic U.S. senator from North Dakota has made campaign appearances with candidates looking to unseat Republ...

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp holds a town hall Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at Carl Ben Eielson Middle School in in Fargo, N.D. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service file photo

GRAND FORKS, N.D.-Heidi Heitkamp isn't up for re-election this year, but that doesn't mean she's staying off the campaign trail.

The Democratic U.S. senator from North Dakota has made campaign appearances with candidates looking to unseat Republican incumbents in Missouri, Kentucky and Arkansas in recent weeks, as Democrats look to win back control of the Senate Tuesday.

Heitkamp described Jason Kander, Jim Gray and Conner Eldridge as moderate Democrats who can help break partisan stalemates in Congress. Kander, Missouri's secretary of state, is challenging Sen. Roy Blunt; Gray, the mayor of Lexington, Ky., is running against Sen. Rand Paul; Eldridge, a former U.S. attorney, is seeking to unseat Sen. John Boozman in Arkansas.

"I'd love to grow the number of moderates who come with a simple message: that they're there to represent their state first and foremost," Heitkamp said Thursday. "That's a consistent theme in all of these campaigns."

Kander, a former Army captain who served in Afghanistan, received national attention for an advertisement in which he assembled an AR-15 rifle while blindfolded. Politico referred to him as the "breakout Senate candidate of 2016" this week.


Just before noon Friday, FiveThirtyEight's election forecast gave Kander a 56 percent chance of defeating Blunt, which are far better odds than the website gives Gray or Eldridge. It gave Gray a 9.9 percent chance of defeating Paul, and Eldridge has a 2.8 percent chance of unseating Boozman.

Heitkamp appeared alongside Kander Tuesday in several Missouri campaign stops, according to the Springfield News-Leader. She had already campaigned with him in Springfield in June, the newspaper said.

"(I would) love to see any of these candidates get elected because I think it would grow the ranks of people who are going to Washington not to fight about ideology but to get things done," Heitkamp said.

The 2016 races comes four years after Heitkamp won a hard-fought contest for her seat against former Republican Rep. Rick Berg. She's now the only statewide elected Democrat in a heavily red state.

Heitkamp said the conventional wisdom about her race was she couldn't win because of North Dakota's Republican leanings.

"When we proved that we could (win), that gave a lot of hope to candidates to step up and run," she said.

Heitkamp has been largely absent from the spotlight of this year's presidential race, in which Donald Trump is expected to capture North Dakota's three electoral votes. Heitkamp supports Hillary Clinton, but she was not on stage at the Democratic National Convention in July when 12 Democratic females senators appeared together in support of their party's nominee, according to Heitkamp's office previously said she missed the roll call vote at the convention due to "previous commitments."

"My attention really has been ... to look at those races where there are candidates who I think would add a bipartisan dimension and a willingness to compromise," Heitkamp said.


Heitkamp is the only member of North Dakota's congressional delegation who isn't up for re-election this year.

Deb Seminary, a spokeswoman for Republican Sen. John Hoeven's campaign, said he hasn't been on the trail for other candidates "because he has his own campaign to run." Likewise, Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he's focused on winning a third term.

"I've contributed a lot of money to help other members of Congress," he said. "But I have not been out campaigning at all with them."

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

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