Other Views: Anti-Heitkamp legislation a GOP ploy

No matter how they characterize it, a bill that would change the way North Dakota fills a U.S. Senate vacancy is a cynical political stunt. It should be trashed.

No matter how they characterize it, a bill that would change the way North Dakota fills a U.S. Senate vacancy is a cynical political stunt. It should be trashed.
Rep. Roscoe Streyle, R-Minot, insists his legislation is about voting, not politics. Whether or not he believes such tripe, Streyle’s legislation confirms that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., frightens the political tar out of Republicans.
The bill would strip the governor of the time-honored role of appointing to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy. Republicans are nervous because if Heitkamp runs for governor in 2016 (she’s not said she is), and wins, she would resign her Senate seat. As the new governor, she would appoint someone - certainly a Democrat - to fill out the remaining two years of her term. The state would keep a Democrat in the Senate and, for the first time in more than 20 years, a Democrat would be governor. That’s the stuff of Republican nightmares.
The bill would mandate a special election. Given requirements for a special election, North Dakota could be without one of its two U.S. senators for a year or longer. So in addition to pushing a petty political ploy, Streyle also would guarantee North Dakotans would be without full representation in the U.S. Senate for a much longer time than if the governor quickly appointed a senator.
Streyle and his supporters aren’t fooling anyone. The bill is a pre-emptive shot at Heitkamp - at her obvious political strength in the state. They have reason to worry.
Despite a Republican wave election in 2012, Heitkamp won a U.S. Senate seat over one-term U.S. Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D. She ran a nearly flawless campaign. He did not. Even as Republicans took every other major contest in the state and increased their majority in the Legislature, Berg lost.
The wail Republicans sent up still echoes across the political landscape. To make matters worse for the GOP, Heitkamp has enhanced her standing among North Dakotans during her first years in the Senate by virtue of her focus on matters of unique importance to her state. She is politically stronger today than she was during her campaign against Berg.
It’s no wonder Republicans want to cut her off at the pass. They won’t say so out loud, but they believe she could be elected governor if popular Gov. Jack Dalrymple does not run for re-election – that is, if it’s an open seat and lesser Republicans compete for the nomination.
Whatever plays out in the next couple of years, Streyle’s bill is an affront to fair play and common decency. It’s the worst kind of politics - the snickering misuse of the legislative process to advance an undisguised partisan agenda.
House Bill 1181 should be relegated to the dust bin.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead’s Editorial Board formed this opinion.

Related Topics: HEIDI HEITKAMP
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