Politics

GOP State Senator to Challenge Heitkamp

Heitkamp is one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats

North Dakota state Sen. Tom Campbell is seeking to unseat the state’s junior U.S. senator, Heidi Heitkamp. (Courtesy Campbell’s Facebook page)

North Dakota state Sen. Tom Campbell has decided to challenge Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp for her Senate seat, the state lawmaker confirmed Wednesday. 

Campbell said he made his decision after months of consideration and traveling the state.

“I just want to basically go to Washington and fight just like my dad did so my grandkids and kids can have the American Dream too,” Campbell said in a brief phone interview. He said his father was a pilot in World War II.

Heitkamp, who was first elected in 2012, is one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats this cycle. President Donald Trump won her state by nearly roughly 36 points last fall. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race a Toss-Up.

Campbell pointed to Trump when discussing his Senate run, noting that politicians in the nation’s capital have “lost touch with what made America great”

“I continue to want to partner up with Trump,” Campbell said. “I like his agenda.”

The timing of his decision to jump in the race is partly due to Heitkamp’s ever-growing campaign coffers, Campbell said. According to Federal Election Commission documents, she had more than $3 million in cash on hand at the end of June.

But Campbell amassed his own wealth before his election to the state Senate in 2012, giving him the ability to self-fund his race. He is the co-founder of Campbell Farms and chairman of Choice Financial Banks Holding Company. He said he was still determining how much he might spend on his campaign.

“Right now, I’m not exactly sure what it’s going to take and how much money I’m going to spend but I know I’ll be right there,” Campbell said. “Between my friends and potential people that support me, I’ll have enough resources to challenge her.”

Democrats did not appear fazed by Heitkamp’s new challenger.

“No one works harder for North Dakota than Senator Heitkamp — which is why Republicans have struggled for find a qualified candidate to take her on,” David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in a statement. “Looks like they’re still looking.”

Campbell said he expects two of the major issues in his campaign to be overhauling the tax code and repealing and replacing the 2010 health care law. Both issues are also the main GOP priorities that have so far eluded the Republicans in charge of Congress.

Campbell specifically pointed to Heitkamp’s votes against GOP proposals to repeal and replace the 2010 law. Democrats remained united in voting against two proposals, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated would lead to millions more people without health insurance.

Campbell said he would have voted for both the leadership’s proposal, known as the the Better Care Reconciliation Act, and the last-ditch effort to repeal some major parts of the law, known as the “skinny repeal.”

“It wasn’t perfect. It had a lot of work. But it was a move forward to bring it up and discuss and start fixing it,” Campbell said of the GOP health care bills. “Heidi didn’t give it a chance.”

Campbell said he and his consultants have been in touch with national Republicans, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

One GOP operative said Campbell wasn’t likely to clear the GOP primary field. North Dakota’s at-large Rep. Kevin Cramer is also eyeing a run.

CNN recently reported that some Republicans were pushing Campbell to run and urging Cramer to stay out of the race due to his past controversial statements.

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