Heitkamp Says Senate Race Close

Heidi Heitkamp, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Sen. Kent Conrad, said Wednesday she believes her race against Republican candidate U.S. Rep. Rick Berg is a tie.

Heitkamp met with the Valley City Times-Record editorial board Wednesday morning.

“I pretty much tell people this is a tied race at this point – Our (D-NPL) internal polls show us slightly ahead, but it’s within the margin of error,” Heitkamp said.

Heitkamp was in Valley City for the opening of The North Dakota Democratic-NPL’s Valley City Coordinated Campaign office grand opening, which took place starting 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the campaign office at 223 Central Ave. North.

Speaking were Heitkamp, U.S. House candidate Pam Gulleson, and Public Service Commission candidate Brad Crabtree.

Heitkamp noted a national Republican fundraising group is taking the North Dakota race for Conrad’s seat seriously, with the group committing $3.1 million to pro-Berg advertising.

Heitkamp said she expects a record 350,000 to 360,000 state residents to cast their votes in the November election.

With a large majority of both Democrats and Republicans in the state not susceptible to changing their minds about who they will vote for as senator, Heitkamp said, “I don’t think there are more than 50,000 persuadable voters in North Dakota - $3.1 million to try and change 50,000 minds is a lot of money per person (about $62).”

Heitkamp said she has tried to get Berg to agree to seven or eight debates on separate issues such as the budget, health care and energy, but at this point Berg has only agreed to two – a 45-minute Sept. 5 debate at the North Dakota Broadcasters Association meeting in Bismarck, and later to tape a televised debate slated to run on Prairie Public TV in October. “I don’t think either debate will be live,” Heitkamp said.

Heitkamp contrasted her experiences running against Berg with her experience running for governor against then-Gov. John Hoeven in 2000.
“John Hoeven and I were at about 20 joint appearances – not all debates – where voters could hear both of us and find out where we stood,” Heitkamp said.

Heitkamp, an attorney by training, has served both as North Dakota tax commissioner and North Dakota Attorney General.

She became tax commissioner when appointed by then-Gov. George Sinner to fill out Kent Conrad’s term in 1986 after Conrad was elected senator, and won a term in the seat from voters. She was then elected attorney general in 1992, assumed the office in 1993, and served two terms as attorney general through 2001.

She worked in the state tax office as an attorney before being appointed commissioner.

Heitkamp became a member of the board of directors of the Dakota Gasification Company in 2003, and has worked on three North Dakota initiatives – a privacy initiative in 2001, a property rights initiative, and and an initiative requiring a portion of North Dakota’s tobacco settlement money be used for tobacco control.

Heitkamp said she has visited Valley City “four or five times” this election season. “We walked in the parade – that was a lot of fun,” and talked with people at Valley City State University. “We did a series of events – I’ve been everywhere.”

Heitkamp said “We’ve been trying to visit across the state, talking to small businesses and most of the state’s colleges. I think Mayville is the only one we haven’t visited yet.”

Heitkamp said, “I was in Jamestown yesterday talking to economic development people, and we went out to Great River,” the power plant near Spritwood which produces steam for a Cargill malting facility.

Heritkamp said she has much sympathy with the people in the Devils Lake area. “I have a lot of concern for Devils Lake, but I want to mitigate what’s coming down” the Sheyenne River through Valley City and other communities on the river. She said everyone affected by Devils Lake water entering the Sheyenne River should participate in the decision-making process.