Heitkamp’s Defense of Her Attack on Cramer’s Salary Was So Dumb It Was Kind of Funny

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp makes a point in the U.S. Senate Candidate Debate with Rep. Kevin Cramer on Thursday night in Bismarck. The debate was sponsored by the North Dakota Newspaper Association. Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune

If you missed last night’s debate between North Dakota Senate candidates Heidi Heitkamp and Kevin Cramer you can watch the whole thing below.

I’m not sure anything happened last night to change the trajectory of this race. Both candidates hit their talking points, but there weren’t really any resonant moments likely to move a lot of voters. I thought Heitkamp was a little shaky. She’s normally good at this stuff, but she was a little off her game last night, which probably isn’t surprising given the brutal news cycle she’s been through what with the whole outing and re-victimizing sexual assault survivors thing.

That said, there was an exchange between the candidates about an ad Heitkamp has been running accusing Cramer of raising his own salary while he was a member of the Public Service Commission.

“That answer was so goofy I should almost give you my 30 seconds to say it again,” Cramer said in response. “Did you listen to yourself?”

“I still want to get to what you were thinking Sen. Heitkamp when you authorized the ad saying that I voted a 23,000 raise for myself – that I gave myself a raise,” Cramer told Heitkamp at one point in the debate. “You know that’s not true.”

It’s not just Cramer saying this is untrue. The folks at Politifact, who are hardly possessed of a pro-Republican bias, did a fact check of the ad and found it to be false. Because, for one thing, in North Dakota it’s the Legislature which sets salaries for state office holders. Cramer’s salary went up, yes, but it was the Legislature giving him the raises. For another thing, the only changes in salary the PSC put in to the Legislature as a budget request during Cramer’s tenure was for staff. Not the commissioners: “The OMB had three of the four budget requests during which Cramer served and got salary hikes on file. Only one asked for equity funds to raise administrative staff salaries,” Politifact reports. “But that does not include the commissioners, according to Jill Kringstad, Accounting Budget Specialist. She could not recall any instances where commissioners’ salary increases were included in budget requests.”

And what did Heitkamp have to say about all this in response to Cramer? “You were elected with that salary, you should maintain that salary.”

Uh, right.

“That answer was so goofy I should almost give you my 30 seconds to say it again,” Cramer said in response. “Did you listen to yourself?”

In Heitkamp’s defense, any answer you give when caught out in a blatant lie is going to sound pretty lame.

Here’s the full video of the debate.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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