Robert Harms: What Will Heidi Heitkamp Do?


Gubernatorial prognostication in 2016 is all the rage in North Dakota these days, with the big question being “What Will Heitkamp Do?”

Recent election results don’t give the Democrats much hope for victory in a statewide contest; but, to be fair, Senator Heitkamp did once buck that trend, albeit by the narrowest of margins. That’s really the crux of all the speculation – she’s the only one who has done it in recent memory, so she has to be “the one” if Democrats are going to have a chance, right?

But whether or not Heitkamp can win a race for Governor in North Dakota really depends on which Heitkamp shows up.  Are we going to get Candidate Heitkamp as presented in the media and on the campaign trail, who will stand up to the President and be an independent voice for North Dakota? Or are we going to get Senator Heitkamp, who does everything that Harry Reid and Barack Obama ask her to do?

This isn’t partisan rhetoric – this is cold hard fact.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]Numerous examples of Heitkamp’s “evolving” positions have been highlighted in these pages and others…But on no issue has Heitkamp’s hypocrisy been as blatantly partisan as on the federal budget.[/mks_pullquote]

Numerous examples of Heitkamp’s “evolving” positions have been highlighted in these pages and others. Now that she finds herself in the minority, she suddenly embraces the filibuster that she voted to eliminate when she was in the majority. Despite stating that she was “disappointed” in Obama’s unconstitutional executive actions on immigration and saying they would “poison” the new Congress, she five times obstructed a vote to defund those same actions. She even told her Caucus members that they should use a vote on the Keystone Pipeline, her favorite “See, I stand up to the President” issue, as a chit to hold out on to get something in return.

But on no issue has Heitkamp’s hypocrisy been as blatantly partisan as on the federal budget.

On her final campaign swing in 2012, then-Candidate Heitkamp actually went on a multi-day “Balance the Budget” Tour. In comments in Minot just days before the election, she spoke of the expansion of the federal budget as “unsustainable”, calling out the 40 cents of every dollar spent that is borrowed, and adding “we can’t burden our children with this debt”.  That was $2 trillion ago.

Fast forward to her first budget vote in the Senate, and that same Candidate-now-Senator voted for what would have been one of the largest tax increases in American history – nearly $1 trillion in new taxes. Quite a few Democrats facing re-election in red states like North Dakota voted against it, but Heitkamp didn’t have to worry about facing voters for 5 years. She supported it, and it passed by one vote. So much for standing up to the President.

Back on the campaign trail, she derided the amount of time that the Republican plan would take to balance the budget, and called for fixing the problem at a more “accelerated” pace. Yet Obama’s budget NEVER balances, even after raising taxes by $1.6 trillion, and doubles annual deficits to about $1 trillion every year. Meanwhile, the Republican plan balances the budget in less than 10 years, without raising taxes.

North Dakotans in 2012 heard a lot of good things from Candidate Heitkamp while she was stumping here in the state, and she eked out a narrow victory. But Senator Heitkamp hasn’t delivered on those campaign promises, and has shown her true colors with a voting record that can’t be denied.

Whenever Candidate Heitkamp comes back to the state – whether for state or federal office – she’ll have to explain why North Dakota voters should allow her to bring Washington’s failures here to North Dakota and cancel out years of economic growth and opportunity.