FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Republican state Sen. Tom Campbell said Wednesday he's running for the U.S. Senate seat held by North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, citing President Donald Trump's popularity in the state as a selling point.
Campbell, a potato farmer from Grafton, said he wants to partner with Trump, who won the state by 36 percent, the largest margin of victory in a presidential race since Ronald Reagan in 1980. Campbell said Heitkamp is "against just about everything Trump's trying to do and always against our North Dakota core values."
Asked about Trump's response to the deadly white nationalist rally in Virginia, Campbell said he didn't think the president intended to "be cold" about the incident.
"It was a horrible incident. It was an act of terrorism. It caused three deaths," Campbell said. "I just think a lot of people who are attacking him, no matter what he would have said, they would have attacked him."
Heitkamp hasn't officially announced her re-election plans but has stockpiled $3 million for a run. A spokeswoman for Heitkamp declined to comment about Campbell's announcement.
Campbell criticized Heitkamp for accepting money from out-of-state donors and said he decided to kick off his campaign Wednesday because "every day waiting gives her more support."
It's not known whether Campbell will be the only Republican to seek Heitkamp's spot. Rep. Kevin Cramer, who occupies the state's lone seat in the U.S. House, has not decided whether he will run for Senate or House. Campbell said the two talked Wednesday morning and Cramer did not tell him his plans.
"He is a good friend and does a phenomenal job," Campbell said. "He told me it was great idea to run and said we needed someone to call her on some of the things she's doing."
Cramer told KFGO radio that he'll likely run for one of the two congressional seats and "it's impossible not to look at the Senate seat."
Campbell, 58, holds a bachelor's degree in economics from North Dakota State University and is married with two children. He is the co-founder of Campbell Farms and a partner in the Campbell Property Group. He's chairman of the Choice Financial Banks Holding Co. and a board member of the NDSU Alumni Association. He is a past director of the National Potato Board.
Campbell was first elected to the state Senate in 2012. He mulled a run for governor two years ago but ultimately did not.
Meanwhile, a former Democratic state lawmaker said Wednesday that he's running for U.S. House. Ben Hanson, a commercial real estate broker from Fargo, served in the state House from 2013 to 2016.
Hanson said Cramer has lost focus on issues that matter to North Dakotans and "instead has become part of the mess that is Washington D.C."