Some Democrats Relieved Heitkamp Won’t Run for Governor

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) talks to voters at AFL-CIO House of Labor in Bismarck, N.D., Nov. 5, 2018. (Hilary Swift/Copyright 2019 The New York Times)

Yesterday I shared polling from Governor Doug Burgum’s not-yet-officially-announced re-election campaign showing the incumbent with a commanding lead in a hypothetical match-up with former Senator Heidi Heitkamp.

Reacting to that poll later in the day, Heitkamp said that particular competition would remain strictly hypothetical.


She also got in a dig at Republicans for including her in the poll:

Heitkamp questioned “the obsession that they have with me” and added, “they should worry more about doing their jobs and less about politics.”

It’s been interesting to watch Heitkamp and her water carriers deploy that “obsessed” talking point. It’s been used against me, specifically, and it’s always been about deflecting valid criticism by trying to change the subject. An odd choice for a political figure who claims to care about getting more women involved in politics.

Playing the victim is not something a male politician could get away with. Politicians shouldn’t be sympathetic figures. And yet, for some reason Heitkamp is able to avoid a lot of scrutiny by carrying on as if she were someone being bullied in a school yard and not, at one point, one of the most powerful elected figures in the state.

Anyway, last night I contacted a couple of Democratic friends about Heitkamp’s announcement to see what they thought of it. Each of them – one a part of the state party’s leadership in the past, another a current district chair – spoke to me on condition of anonymity because while Heitkamp may be all but retired from electoral politics she can still focus a lot of wrath on state Democrats speaking critically of her.

“It had to happen,” the district chair told me. “I don’t know what went into her decision to announce she isn’t running at this point, if someone encouraged her or whatever, but our party needs to move past Heidi Heitkamp. I love her to death and believe she accomplished a lot of great things, but her time as a viable candidate in this state is over and she needed to make room for others.”

“I’m glad she announced this,” the past party leader told me. “If she had let it play out until later this year or into next year it was going to be a cloud over any other candidate trying to get organized.”

I agree with these statements. If Heitkamp isn’t going to run she had to get out now so that other candidates have a chance.

Neither of my sources were willing to speculate on who might run for Democrats, and at this point I’m not sure I care to speculate either. Eventually the Democrats will nominate someone, but I’m not sure we can expect them to be very competitive this cycle, a point even current party leadership is conceding:

Democratic-NPL Chairwoman Kylie Oversen said the party has asked Heitkamp if she is interested in running for governor, “but her answer has been pretty consistent” and the party supports her current endeavors. The party has been talking to “a lot of different people” about running, she said, but she also acknowledged that it could be “a long-shot race.”

Unless something changes drastically, if Burgum wants another four years in office it’s his for the taking.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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