North Dakota senator Heidi Heitkamp trails in the polls, by a large margin and for a good reason. Since winning office in 2012 on the promise to represent state rather than party, Heitkamp has done little to distinguish herself from the rest of the Senate Democratic caucus. The case against Heitkamp for conservative North Dakotans is almost self-evident.
She most recently made national news for voting against the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Mere hours after announcing her vote, Heitkamp explained it in a TV advertisement designed to blunt its impact (North Dakotans supported confirmation by an overwhelming margin). “I don’t think he told the truth, and even if he did, he showed himself to be too biased to be impartial,” she said. She later clarified how she came to that decision by explaining that she watched Kavanaugh’s testimony with the sound off. His “body language and demeanor,” was, apparently, all the evidence she needed. She could have read some of Kavanaugh’s many judicial decisions to see evidence of an exemplary judicial temperament, but we suppose that would have taken more time.
Heitkamp returned to a long-running theme at the end of the ad: “I believe a senator has to put politics aside and do what’s right for our country.” Heitkamp knows she has to give the appearance of independence, but on too many issues, an appearance is all it is.
Having said in 2012 that she believes “late-term abortions should be illegal except when necessary to save the life of the mother,” Heitkamp voted in January against a 20-week abortion ban. Having said then that “I do not support public funding of abortions,” Heitkamp voted against an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood. Perhaps she would argue that the details of these bills were unacceptable; yet she has made no other efforts to advance her putative views. Heitkamp has a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood Action’s congressional scorecard. Heitkamp voted against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and, over her six years in office, has generally toed the Democratic line on immigration.
Heitkamp voted for a few of President Trump’s cabinet nominees and maintains a solid record on gun rights. This does not suffice to give her the independent label she so covets in a state with a preponderance of conservative voters. We expect that North Dakotans will vote Heidi Heitkamp out of the Senate come November, and we obviously won’t miss her.