Monday, December 12, 2016

Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of N.D. tops Trump's list for ag secretary, Politico says

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp
Democratic U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota is President-elect Donald Trump's top candidate for agriculture secretary, Politco reports. Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, "has been a vocal advocate for farmers and broke from her party on several controversial policy issues, including the labeling of genetically modified foods and environmental protection for wetlands and waterways," reporters Josh Dawsey, Andrew Restuccia and Jenny Hopkins write.

If the first-term senator accepted the position it would prompt a special election to replace her, which could lead to a Republican gaining her seat, something a Politico source said is one of the main reasons she is being considered. Heitkamp, who is one of the Senate’s more conservative Democrats and has been known to side with Republicans to please her constituents, met with Trump on Dec. 2. She has declined to comment about it.

"Heitkamp's departure from the Senate would be bad news for Democrats as they try to hold onto every seat in the upper chamber that they can," Dawsey, Restuccia and Hopkins write. "Twenty-three Democrats and the two independent senators who caucus with them, Vermont's Bernie Sanders and Maine's Angus King, are up for reelection in two years, with five of the Democratic races considered competitive. Four others are in states that twice voted against Obama as well as for Trump, including North Dakota."

"Heitkamp replaced retiring four-term Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad in 2012 after beating Republican Rep. Rick Berg by fewer than 3,000 votes," Dawsey, Restuccia and Hopkins write. "She previously worked for nearly 12 years as the director of the Dakota Gasification Co.'s Great Plains Synfuels Plant. She served as North Dakota's attorney general from 1992 to 2000 and made a failed bid for governor in 2000, losing to John Hoeven, now the senior senator from North Dakota."

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