Last week we got news that Congressman Kevin Cramer would not be running for the U.S. Senate, leaving state Senator Tom Campbell as the only announced Republican against Democrat incumbent Heidi Heitkamp.
But today I can report that Gary Emineth, a Bismarck-based businessman and former Chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party, is thinking about jumping into the race.
This would be an intriguing development, particularly given Emineth’s close ties to Cramer. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a primary,” Cramer told me on air last week, saying he expects other Republican candidates to get into the race.
Perhaps he was talking about Emineth?
It’s no secret in political circles that (despite public comments to the contrary) Cramer isn’t especially fond of Campbell – the Congressman declined to give him his endorsement last week – and Republicans are telling me that Cramer and Emineth are “in cahoots.”
Something I take to mean that Emineth will probably follow the Cramer model for electoral success. Specifically, that if Emineth is in the race he’ll take any nomination fight straight to the June primary ballot.
Does Emineth have the sort of name recognition it would take to beat Heitkamp? Can he raise enough money to combat the millions in out of state contributions the incumbent has already amassed this early in the election cycle?
To answer the first question, I think Emineth can build name recognition very quickly by coming out swinging against Heitkamp. He’ll be a bomb-thrower I think, if he’s in, and that will ingratiate him with a Republican base in North Dakota which is thirsty for an aggressive campaign against the only Democrat to win on the statewide ballot since 2008.
As for the second question, again Emineth and Cramer are close, and Cramer will a) probably not face much of a challenge from Democrats in getting re-elected to the House and b) is widely known as a very strong fundraiser.
This is an exciting potential development for 2018.
UPDATE: Emineth, who is sitting in for talk radio host Scott Hennen this morning, was asked about my post on air. He was caught off guard, saying that topic wasn’t supposed to come up today, abut acknowledged that a race is under serious consideration.
UPDATE: Congressman Cramer provided this response on Facebook: