Trump Transition Team Member Says Rep. Kevin Cramer Considering Senate Run Against Heitkamp in 2018


Former Public Service Commisisoner Kevin Cramer has successfully run three consecutive terms in the U.S. House as North Dakota’s at-large Congressman, and that has led many to wonder what the next run up on his career ladder is.

Will he take a position in the Trump administration? Cramer was among the first members of Congress to back Trump, and there has been plenty of speculation that Cramer might get some sort of an energy-related appointment from the President-elect, but a week ago Cramer told me that’s “unlikely.”

But is it unlikely because Cramer doesn’t aspire to anything beyond his House seat? Or unlikely because he has designs on the seat in the U.S. Senate currently occupied by North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp?

A report in Politico quotes a source in the Trump administration as saying that Cramer wants that Senate seat. The report is behind a paywall, but here’s an excerpt:

Beyond Montana, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) could face a strong challenger in Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). Like Zinke, Cramer was an early backer of Trump’s presidential bid even as the Republican establishment chafed at the New York developer.

Cramer often appears on short lists to lead Trump’s Department of Energy, though one source working on the president-elect’s transition said the two-term Republican is expected to take on Heitkamp rather than join the administration.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), the former House member chairing the National Republican Senatorial Committee for 2018, praised Cramer as a “tireless advocate.”

“He puts the people of North Dakota before everything else, and that’s what people want in their elected member of the Senate,” Gardner said. “And obviously, in the 2018 election cycle, we just have to plan on winning every race. And of course, he’d be very good at it.”

Heitkamp has long made clear that she expects a bruising reelection battle and plans to remind voters of her work with the GOP.

“My whole purpose in being here is trying to bridge some of these partisan divides and try and get things done,” Heitkamp said. “I don’t care what their label is. When I agree with them, we’re going to do business. When I disagree with them, we’re going to have a conversation.”

I reached out to Cramer about this report and he didn’t rule out a Senate run.

“I am focused on helping Speaker Ryan and House Republicans prepare for a productive lame duck session and an extremely busy 2017,” he told me this evening. “I feel no urgency in making a decision about 2018. I am going to serve where I believe North Dakotans want me. For now that is the House of Representatives.”

That’s the answer you’d expect whether Cramer has made a decision about the Senate or not.

If you asked me to place a bet, I’d put my money on Cramer running for the Senate. In fact, I’d bet that Cramer has already made that decision and will announce it when the time comes.

The 2018 election, if Heitkamp chooses to run for another term (and she may not), could be very, very interesting.