North Dakota Democrat Top Of Trump's List For Agriculture Secretary, Gives GOP Another Senate Pick Up Opportunity

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Posted: Dec 12, 2016 1:30 PM
North Dakota Democrat Top Of Trump's List For Agriculture Secretary, Gives GOP Another Senate Pick Up Opportunity

Guy and Cortney wrote about Republican John Kennedy, who won Louisiana’s senate race over the weekend. Neither the Republican nor the Democratic candidate in the Bayou State was able to get a majority of the vote on election night, so a runoff occurred. The GOP held the seat that’s being vacated by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA). So, right now, Republicans control the Senate with a 52-48 majority. Yet, there could be another pick-up in the future if Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) is picked by President-elect Donald Trump to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The special election that would be held to replace her would most likely end with a GOP pick-up. To add more intrigue, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke with North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer about running for Heitkamp’s seat. Whether it was due to the possibility of a special election or gearing up for the 2018 midterms wasn’t specified in the piece written by Politico’s Josh Dawsey, Andrew Restuccia, and Jenny Hopkinson:

The first-term Democrat from North Dakota and member of the Senate Agriculture Committee has been a vocal advocate for farmers and broke from her party on several controversial policy issues, including the labeling of genetically modified foods and environmental protection for wetlands and waterways.

[…]

Heitkamp, who met with the president-elect at Trump Tower on Dec. 2, is facing a tough race in a deep red state in 2018. In a further sign she is a strong contender for a Cabinet post, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell met with North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer on Tuesday about a potential open Senate seat. A source close to the transition said gaining another Republican Senate seat was on the list of reasons for picking Heitkamp.

[…]

Heitkamp's departure from the Senate would be bad news for Democrats as they try to hold onto every seat in the upper chamber that they can. Twenty-three Democrats and the two independent senators who caucus with them, Vermont's Bernie Sanders and Maine's Angus King, are up for reelection in two years, with five of the Democratic races considered competitive. Four others are in states that twice voted against Obama as well as for Trump, including North Dakota.

Heitkamp replaced retiring four-term Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad in 2012 after beating Republican Rep. Rick Berg by fewer than 3,000 votes.

Of course, Democrats are hoping she rejects the offer, with former Democratic North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan confident that she won’t take the job. It would give the GOP another seat, though given the tide of the country, especially in these deep red states—it might only be delaying the inevitable for Heitkamp. Heitkamp’s popularity is 50 percent, but that’s shaky for a senator who barely won her first election. She may trend more to the right on some issues, but if voters want a conservative, they’ll vote Republican—as we saw with the conservative Blue Dog Democrats in the 2010 midterms. They got virtually wiped out, despite their opposition to Obamacare. Heitkamp could continue to serve for the next four years in government, or risk another statewide race in which the odds of her surviving are grim.