North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp has long struggled to distance herself from her national party. During her 2012 campaign for the Senate she branded herself an “independent,” and touted her willingness to “stand up” to President Barack Obama.
But there’s little evidence of that independence in Senator Heitkamp’s stance on the minimum wage. Heitkamp is a co-sponsor of legislation to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour:
U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who is a cosponsor of the bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, said someone working 40 hours a week on minimum wage makes about $15,000 a year.
“I don’t know anyone who puts in 40 hours of work who makes $15,000 a year can make ends meet in North Dakota,” she said. Minnesota Democratic Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar are also cosponsors of the bill.
That puts Heitkamp way to the left of the North Dakota Legislature, and even her own party, on this issue. When a much more moderate proposal to increase North Dakota’s minimum wage – one that would index the minimum to a calculation of inflation – it was defeated 70-24 in the state House. What’s more, when I spoke with the sponsor of that bill – Democrat State Rep. Steve Zaiser of Fargo – he said there probably won’t be another minimum wage bill introduced in 2015 since he’s retiring.
“I’m a big proponent,” he said of the issue back in January. “I’ve introduced it several times now. We need it badly for those people who aren’t doing well.” But when I asked him if he thought legislation would be introduced again in 2015, he said “sadly, no.”
If Zaiser’s accounting of his fellow Democrats in the Legislature can be trusted, it’s pretty fair to say that Heitkamp is to the left of even her own state party on this issue.