Mary Kathryn "Heidi" Heitkamp (/ˈhaɪtˌkæmp/; born October 30, 1955) is an American businesswoman, lawyer and politician serving as the junior United States Senator from North Dakota since 2013. A member of the North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party, she is the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from North Dakota. She served as the 28th North Dakota Attorney General from 1993 to 2001 and as State Tax Commissioner from 1989 to 1993.
Heitkamp ran for governor of North Dakota in 2000 and lost to Republican John Hoeven. She considered a bid for the Democratic nomination in the 2010 U.S. Senate election to replace retiring Senator Byron Dorgan, but on March 3, 2010, declined to run against Hoeven, who was ultimately elected.
In November 2011, Heitkamp declared her candidacy to replace Kent Conrad as U.S. Senator from North Dakota in the 2012 election. She narrowly defeated Republican Congressman Rick Berg on November 6, 2012, in that year's closest Senate race. Berg conceded the next day. Heitkamp is North Dakota's second female senator, after Jocelyn Burdick, and is the first to be elected.
|United States Senator
from North Dakota
January 3, 2013
Serving with John Hoeven
|Preceded by||Kent Conrad|
|28th Attorney General of North Dakota|
December 15, 1992 – December 15, 2000
|Preceded by||Nicholas Spaeth|
|Succeeded by||Wayne Stenehjem|
|20th Tax Commissioner of North Dakota|
December 2, 1986 – December 15, 1992
|Preceded by||Kent Conrad|
|Succeeded by||Robert Hanson|
|Born||Mary Kathryn Heitkamp
October 30, 1955
Breckenridge, Minnesota, U.S.
|Education||University of North Dakota (BA)
Lewis and Clark College (JD)
Heitkamp was born in Breckenridge, Minnesota, the fourth of seven children of Doreen LaVonne (née Berg), a school cook, and Raymond Bernard Heitkamp, a janitor and construction worker. Her father was of German descent, while her mother has half Norwegian and half German ancestry. Heitkamp was raised in Mantador, North Dakota, attending local public schools. She earned a B.A. from the University of North Dakota in 1977 and a J.D. from Lewis and Clark Law School in 1980. Heitkamp interned for the US Congress in 1976 and in the state legislature in 1977.
She also became active in politics, joining the North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party. In 1984, Heitkamp ran for North Dakota State Auditor but was defeated by incumbent Republican Robert W. Peterson. In 1986, Conrad decided to resign as Tax Commissioner in order to run for the U.S. Senate. Heitkamp ran for State Tax Commissioner and won the election with 66% of the vote against Republican Marshall Moore. She served in that position until 1992.
In 1992, the incumbent North Dakota Attorney General, Democrat Nick Spaeth, decided to retire in order to run for governor. Heitkamp ran for the position and won with 62% of the vote. In 1996, she won reelection with 64% of the vote.
As Attorney General of North Dakota, Heitkamp became known for leading the state's legal efforts for damages against tobacco companies, eventually resulting in the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. This provides for the tobacco companies to pay the state funds to be applied to health care costs, as illnesses and deaths attributable to the ill effects of smoking have affected the state's costs.
In 2000, incumbent Republican Governor Ed Schafer decided not to seek a third term. Heitkamp ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. On the Republican side, John Hoeven, CEO of the Bank of North Dakota, also ran unopposed. During her campaign for governor, it was announced that Heitkamp had been diagnosed with breast cancer, which is now in remission. Hoeven defeated her 55% to 45%. Heitkamp won 12 of the state's 53 counties.
Her brother, Joel, is a radio talk-show host and former North Dakota state senator. Heitkamp has occasionally filled in as host of his program, News and Views, which is broadcast on Clear Channel stations in North Dakota.
In January 2011, incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Kent Conrad announced his intent to retire instead of seeking a fourth full term in 2012. On November 8, 2011, Heitkamp announced that she would seek the open seat. She vowed to be "an independent voice."
Heitkamp was attacked in commercials for accepting campaign contributions from Jack McConnell, Jr., a trial lawyer assigned by her, when she was state attorney general, to help North Dakota implement its settlement with tobacco companies. She released an ad to respond to these allegations.
Heitkamp won the November 6, 2012, Senate election by 2,994 votes, less than 1% of the ballots cast. Berg conceded the race the next day though he could have asked for a "demand recount" under North Dakota law. This permits candidates to demand a recount if they lose an election by more than 0.5% but less than 2% of the vote cast for the candidate receiving the most votes.
Heitkamp is North Dakota's second female U.S. Senator and the first to be elected to the office. She represents the state in the Senate with Republican John Hoeven, her former opponent in the governor's race.
Heitkamp is considered a moderate Democrat. The National Journal has given her a composite rating of 53% liberal and 47% conservative. CrowdPac, which rates politicians based on donations they receive and give, gave Heitkamp a score of 5.7L, with 10L being the most liberal and 10C being the most conservative. The Americans for Democratic Action gave Heitkamp a 60% liberal rating in 2015. The American Conservative Union gives her a lifetime 13.67% conservative. According to FiveThirtyEight, as of December 2017, Heitkamp had voted in line with President Donald Trump's positions 49% of the time.
Heitkamp has said that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act contains "good and bad" and "it needs to be fixed." She criticized her Senate opponent Rick Berg for wanting to repeal the law, citing concerns about insurance companies denying coverage to children with preexisting conditions. Berg and the NRSC criticized Heitkamp for offering unqualified support for the health care law until she ran for the Senate in 2011, citing footage of her at a 2010 rally where she called the bill "a legacy vote" without any criticism of it.
During the United States federal government shutdown of 2013, Heitkamp criticized Republican attempts to use the Continuing Appropriations Resolution as "a vehicle to legislate other issues," such as the defunding of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and a delay of its individual mandate. Heitkamp was one of 14 members of the bipartisan Senate group that negotiated the compromise that was the basis of the eventual deal to end the shutdown. During the government shutdown in 2013, Heitkamp donated about $8,000 of her salary to North Dakota charities that support veterans, provide healthcare supplies to those that cannot afford them, and raise Breast Cancer awareness.
Heitkamp said she would support a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution "with exceptions" if elected. Heitkamp said such exceptions would include wartime spending, Social Security, Medicare, and a ban on tax cuts for those making more than $1 million per year.
Heitkamp announced in a campaign press release in 2012 that she supports the Buffett Rule. Heitkamp supports implementing the Buffett Rule via the Paying a Fair Share Act, which would require those making a gross income of $1,000,000 or more to pay at least a 30% federal tax rate.
Heitkamp said she supports the Keystone XL pipeline because it will create jobs, decrease America's dependence on foreign oil from the Middle East, and help drive down the national debt. She also said many who oppose hydraulic fracturing have been exposed to "junk science" and do not know what it really is. She was Climate Hawks Vote's lowest-rated Democratic senator on climate leadership in the 113th Congress and remains among the lowest in 2015.
In February 2017, Heitkamp was one of two Democratic senators to vote to confirm Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
On April 11, 2013, Heitkamp explained in an interview that she intended to vote against the Manchin-Toomey amendment introduced in the Senate after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which would have amended the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act to expand background checks to gun shows and internet purchases. Heitkamp said, "I'm going to represent my state. ... in the end it's not what any other senator believes. It's about what the people of North Dakota believe."
Polling suggested that the majority of North Dakotans approve of prohibiting individuals on the No-Fly list from buying firearms and ammunition, but in June 2016, after the Orlando nightclub shooting, Heitkamp voted against such a prohibition. She was the only Democratic senator to do so. She instead appeared in support of a "compromise gun bill" proposed by Susan Collins.
|Democratic-NPL||Heidi Heitkamp (inc.)||167,863||63.82|
|Republican||Warren "Duke" Albrecht||112,562||37.63|
NDCC § 16.1-16-01(2)(b) Demand Recounts – If an individual fails to be elected by more than 0.5% but less than 2% of the vote cast for the candidate receiving the most votes for the office sought.
|Tax Commissioner of North Dakota
|Attorney General of North Dakota
|Party political offices|
|Democratic nominee for Governor of North Dakota
|Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from North Dakota
|U.S. Senator (Class 1) from North Dakota
Served alongside: John Hoeven
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
|United States Senators by seniority