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Politico Reporter On Heitkamp's Sexual Assault Survivor Fiasco: She's Going To Pay For It

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) was always going to be in trouble. She barely won her 2012 election, clinching victory with less than 3,000 votes. North Dakota broke heavily for Trump in 2016. It’s a red state. She’s a Democrat. You know what the deal is here. I’ll be generous; perhaps Heitkamp could have squeaked by—maybe. She’s certainly a better bet in this scenario than Claire McCaskill (D-MO). Then, she stepped on a rake and made a blunder that very well could have her updating her resume in a few weeks time.


Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), her Republican opponent, commented on the recent confirmation fight of now-Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, where baseless and unsubstantiated allegations of sexual misconduct were hurled at him in a desperate attempt by the Left to block his nomination. Cramer is not known for his gentle delivery on some issues. He has made some controversial remarks. In response, Heitkamp published an open letter, which included names of women who were survivors of sexual assault. The problem is a lot of the 127 women named never gave permission for their names to be printed—and some weren’t even victims of sexual assault. Heitkamp has apologized, but the damage is done (via CBS News):

North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators up for re-election this year, apologized Tuesday for a newspaper ad run by her campaign which, without permission, named some women who had experienced sexual assault and some who were not victims of abuse.

The ad was structured as an open letter to Kevin Cramer, Heitkamp's Republican opponent, chastising him for comments he made during the Supreme Court confirmation process of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. In September, Cramer questioned whether the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh disqualified him from serving on the court, even if they were true. Heitkamp voted against Kavanaugh's confirmation.

However, many of the 127 women named in the open letter had not given their permission for their stories to be told.


In a radio interview with AM1100 WZFG on Tuesday, Heitkamp said she was "furious" that women had been misidentified in the ad.

"I think that this is horrible, and I look at this the way I would if I were someone whose name were in the paper who didn't authorize it. And I think that that is a colossal and huge mistake for which I will undoubtedly have reputational injury as a result of it," she said in the interview. "But I'm not worried about that. I'm worried about fixing what we've done and the mistake that's been made."

Keely Beck, a North Dakota women identified without her consent in the ad, told CBS News that she was "angry" and "all credibility went out the window when this happened."

"I think if I was approached and talked to about the situation – If I had the choice, maybe I would have felt it was the right time to talk about it. But it wasn't a choice," Beck said. "That's what's upsetting. You get to choose when you get to share your story, and when someone doesn't allow that choice, that's what is upsetting."


A group of 22 women is considering filing legal action against Heitkamp. With 20 days until Election Day, it seems there’s little time to fix this error—and Heitkamp is already trailing Cramer by close to double-digits. On CNN’s Inside Politics Today with John King, Politico’s Rachael Bade said Heitkamp is going to pay with voters for this error, with Associated Press’ Catherine Lucey adding there’s not much she can do to save her seat, given the time constraints we’re dealing with here.

Also, let’s not forget that a poll found that a majority of voters from states represented by this brand of Democrat wanted to see Kavanaugh confirmed. Heitkamp gave a weak sauce answer as to why she voted against the nomination; she was leaning toward voting for confirmation but changed her mind when she re-watched Kavanaugh’s testimony with the sound off. OR…it was because she thought her constituents were idiots and that she knew better. That’s not the vibe you want to give off, especially in a tough re-election year in a Republican state when your first victory wasn’t all that convincing to begin with. Heitkamp was already scrambling for votes; this didn’t help. I think it’s safe to say Heitkamp will be looking for a new job come January (via AP):

An already tenuous bid for a second term has taken on new urgency for Heitkamp since she voted against Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. Heitkamp is scrambling to find her footing amid fears that the race against Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer is slipping away, and with it Democrats’ slim hopes of a Senate majority.

“Are we facing some headwinds? Yep,” Heitkamp said in an Associated Press interview. “But I’ve faced headwinds before, and won.”

Heitkamp has been betting for months that her image as an independent collaborator — someone who could go along with President Donald Trump, but challenge him when needed — could carry her to another term in GOP-heavy North Dakota.

Trailing in polls, including her own campaign’s, with three weeks until Election Day, Heitkamp plans to essentially camp out in North Dakota, especially its more politically independent eastern side.


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