Heidi Heitkamp ContactBack to top
Address: 502 Hart SOB, DC 20510
Phone: (701) 258-4648
Address: 220 East Rosser Avenue, Bismarck ND 58501
Phone: (701) 232-8030
Fax: (701) 746-6449
Address: 657 Second Avenue, North, Fargo ND 58102
Phone: (701) 775-9601
Fax: (701) 746-1990
Address: 33 South Third Street, Grand Forks ND 58201
Phone: (701) 852-0703
Fax: (701) 838-8196
Address: 100 First Street, SW, Minot ND 58701
Phone: (701) 225-0974
Fax: (701) 225-3287
Address: 40 First Avenue, West, Dickinson ND 58601
Heidi Heitkamp StaffBack to top
Heidi Heitkamp CommitteesBack to top
Heidi Heitkamp BiographyBack to top
- Elected: 2012, term expires 2018, 1st term.
- State: North Dakota
- Born: Oct. 30, 1955, Mantador
- Home: Mandan
University of North Dakota, B.A., 1977; Lewis & Clark Law School, J.D., 1980
- Professional Career:
Director, Dakota Gasification, 2001-12; attorney, North Dakota Tax Commissioner Office, 1981-86; attorney, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1980-81
- Political Career:
North Dakota attorney general, 1992-2000; tax commissioner, 1986-92
- Ethnicity: White/Caucasian
- Family: Married (Darwin Lange); 2 children
Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota’s junior senator, is a protégé of her predecessor, Democrat Kent Conrad. In beating GOP Rep. Rick Berg in 2012 for the seat, Heitkamp played up her record as a straight-talking former state attorney general while running a centrist race that emphasized her policy disagreements with President Barack Obama.
Heitkamp grew up in the town of Mantador, N.D. (population 64 in 2010), near the Minnesota border. Her mother was the school cook and custodian, and her father held a series of jobs ranging from truck driver to construction worker. She attributes her gravitation toward the Democratic Party partly to her grandmother, an admirer of President Franklin Roosevelt “who always reminded us that FDR put food on the table and made sure everyone survived the Depression,” she said in an interview with National Journal. “That was a lasting memory, that this was a party that would help others when they needed a little help.”
Heitkamp studied political science as an undergraduate and then got a law degree from Lewis & Clark in Portland, Ore. She briefly worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as an attorney before moving to the North Dakota State Tax Commissioner’s Office. It was there that she met Conrad, who was then tax commissioner and who became her primary political inspiration. “I believed in what he believed in,” she said. When Conrad left in 1986 to run for the Senate, she ran for his job “with a push” from him. (She had waged an unsuccessful bid for state auditor two years earlier.) She won with 66% of the vote and served until 1992, when she jumped into the attorney general’s race to succeed Nicholas Spaeth, who ran for governor. She again won easily, with 62%, and four years later won reelection with 64%.
As attorney general, Heitkamp was best known for leading the state’s legal efforts against tobacco companies that ultimately led to a national settlement in 1998. She said she is also proud of her efforts to revamp the state’s juvenile justice and open meetings laws as well as to improve the anti-domestic violence system. She hoped to parlay her accomplishments into becoming governor in 2000, but lost to Republican John Hoeven, 55% to 45%. She said her ability to campaign in that race was clouded by her diagnosis of breast cancer, which has since been treated and gone into remission.
After that disappointing race, Heitkamp took a job as a director for Dakota Gasification, a company that operates a synthetic fuels plant, and sometimes filled in for her brother, Joel, a former North Dakota state senator, as host of a radio talk show. She said that she enjoyed the break from politics, but when Conrad announced that he would not seek a fifth term, she decided to run for the seat.
Her Republican opponent was Berg, who had won the state’s at large House seat in 2011 after upsetting longtime Democratic incumbent Earl Pomeroy, a victory that many observers said cemented North Dakota’s status as a red state. During their Senate contest, Heitkamp stressed her independence from her party on issues such as energy, including her support for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, and on spending. She backed a constitutional balanced budget amendment, she said, with an exemption for wartime spending, Social Security, and Medicare. And, she ultimately overcame the doubts of even some national Democrats who questioned whether they could successfully defend Conrad’s seat in increasingly Republican-dominated North Dakota.
Heitkamp drew substantial attention for an advertisement in which she supported Obama’s health care legislation, which is unpopular in the state. She said the law contains “good and bad” and “needs to be fixed,” but rebuked her opponent for voting to repeal it. “Rick Berg voted to go back to letting insurance companies deny coverage to kids, or for preexisting conditions,” she said. “... I don’t ever want to go back to those days.”
She also pointed to Berg’s involvement in a company that owns and manages rental housing and that has drawn complaints from its tenants. When Berg contended he had “absolutely no involvement” with the company, her campaign released an ad listing documents that it said tied him to the firm and asked whether he could be trusted on other issues. She held a lead in polls during the summer, and although the race tightened as Election Day approached, she held on to win the election cycle’s closest Senate race, 50.23% to 49.33%, or just under 3,000 votes out of nearly 321,000 cast. Berg won Bismarck’s Burleigh County 55%-45% and most of North Dakota’s western and central counties. But Heitkamp won Fargo’s Cass County 57%-43% and dominated the eastern side of the state.
In the Senate, Heitkamp continued to distance herself from Obama, telling ABC News in January 2013 that she was concerned that the president was taking his focus off the economy to address issues such as climate change and gun control. “The one thing that has gotten lost by everyone is, one of the best ways that we can perform here is by getting people back to work, making sure that this economic recovery, slow as it is, gets amped up and moves forward,” she said.
Heitkamp joined a bipartisan group of senators seeking quick action on the farm bill and the Keystone pipeline. And she won praise for her self-deprecating remarks at a Washington dinner sponsored by the media. “You’re asking yourself, ‘How did this middle-aged, red-headed Democrat win a United States Senate seat in a red state that the president lost by 21 points?’’’ she said. “To you, I’m like a unicorn …You just wanted to tell your family that you saw me in person, and I am the last of my species.”Show Less