NDGOP Recruiting SBHE President Kathy Neset for Possible Senate Run

Geologist Kathy Neset, right, educates a group of teachers about the Bakken on June 11, 2013, near New Town.

Despite a great deal of disingenuous posturing, there’s no question that U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp is running for a second term in office. She’s raised a mountain of money already in the first quarter of 2017. You don’t do that if you’re genuinely planning to retire.

So she’s running. Who will Republicans run against her?

Rep. Kevin Cramer is most talked about among the potential challengers, but he hasn’t made a decision yet.  Will he challenge Heitkamp for the Senate seat or stay put in the House? When I spoke with him this weekend he was still undecided.

State Senator Tom Campbell of Grafton told a meeting of the Cass County Republicans recently that he’ll run for whatever federal race Cramer isn’t in. That would be the Senate if Cramer opts to run for another term in the House.

I contacted Neset about the recruitment rumors. She called them “interesting” but declined to comment further.

Rick Berg, who tried to jump from the House to the Senate in 2012 but was defeated by Heitkamp in a close race, has also been making noises about running.

But despite these names floating about, and most Republicans I talk to seem pretty underwhelmed by the last two, the NDGOP is actively recruiting possible challengers for Heitkamp. “We work under the assumption there aren’t any candidates until they actually declare,” one NDGOP source told me. “We need to be prepared in case Kevin chooses not to run for the Senate.”

One person I’m told is being recruited is Kathy Neset.

Neset hasn’t held elected office before, though she was appointed to the State Board of Higher Education by former Governor Jack Dalrymple. Her appointment to a second four-year term on the board was just confirmed by the state Senate earlier this year.

She is also a geologist and founded/runs Neset Consulting Services, a company which serves the oil industry. Her biography is worth your time to read. It’s a compelling story, particularly in a state like North Dakota, and would make for good campaign fodder.

I contacted Neset about the recruitment rumors. She called them “interesting” but declined to comment further.

She’d make a formidable challenger for Heitkamp. Her work experience in the energy industry will satisfy a lot of voters. And whatever you think about identity politics – I’m not a fan – the fact that she’s a woman would help neutralize “war on women” style attacks from our friends on the left.

Whoever runs, the 2018 Senate race is going to be one for the ages in North Dakota.

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 1-2pm weekdays.

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