Heard on the Hill

Senators Launch Podcasts to Connect With Constituents

Sherrod Brown and Heidi Heitkamp touch on hot topics

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, left, interviews workers from his home state at a Whirlpool plant in Clyde for his podcast. (Courtesy Brown’s office)

Tech-savvy senators are trying out a new platform to connect with voters: podcasts. Democrats Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota are embracing the opportunity to record and share.

Brown’s podcast, “Canarycast,” launched Oct. 3, focuses on the value of hard work and gets its name from a pin the senator wears every day.

“Instead of the official Senate pin, I wear a canary in a birdcage on my lapel. It was given to me by a steelworker in Ohio to remind me of the progress we’ve made for working people,” Brown said.

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But hard work isn’t paying off for Americans like it used to because of trade and tax policies, he said.

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“On this podcast, we are going to talk about what we can do to change that and make hard work pay off once again,” Brown said. “That’s why we’re calling it the Canarycast — the canary is a reminder of both how far we’ve come and how much work we still have to do to support the workers who support this country.”

In the first episode, “Nobody’s Rust Belt,” he spoke with Ohio workers at a Whirlpool plant in Clyde. He also made it clear in the episode that he doesn’t like the term “Rust Belt.” 

Heitkamp launched her podcast “The Hotdish” in February with the idea of sharing her insights into hot topics with North Dakotans.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., right, interviews Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on her podcast. (Courtesy Heitkamp)
North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, right, interviews Maine Sen. Susan Collins on her podcast. (Courtesy Heitkamp’s office)

“My brother Joel has had a talk radio show on KFGO radio in Fargo since 2005. When Joel was a member of the North Dakota state Legislature and I wasn’t in public office, I would fill in for him on air,” she said. “I always say that doing talk radio is one of the best ways to learn about issues and talk with people.”

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The first episode of her podcast featured her ideas for combating human tracking with journalist Kevin Wallevand and Cindy McCain, wife of Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain.

“It’s an issue I’ve been working on for a long time. I interviewed Cindy McCain, who I met several years ago because we were both working to combat human trafficking. And she has been an incredible leader on the issue, nationally and globally,” Heitkamp said. “We became fast friends and she is so informed on this issue.”

Heitkamp’s done seven more episodes since then, covering issues such as Russia, health care, refugees and North Korea. Often her guests are colleagues, such as Maine Sen. Susan Collins and former Sen. Byron L. Dorgan in an episode entitled “Moderates,” which Heitkamp said has been her favorite.

If she could get anyone on her podcast, Heitkamp said it would be actor and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda.

“I saw one of [his] last shows in ‘Hamilton’ and was blown away,” she said. “I would really like to interview him about how he got to where he is, and to help encourage other young people to think outside the box and pursue their dreams.”

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