- Associated Press - Thursday, December 1, 2016

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Speculation that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota could be offered a job in President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet came as bittersweet news Thursday to a beleaguered state Democratic Party.

Heitkamp told The Associated Press she received a call Wednesday from an assistant to Trump’s chief of staff asking her to meet Friday at Trump Tower in New York. That invitation was “the extent to any kind of detail,” she said.

“As I said back in May, when I was asked about working with President-elect Trump were he to be elected, it would be critically important we sit down and talk about priorities for the country and priorities for the state of North Dakota,” Heitkamp said. “I think when the president-elect asks you to come, I think it is the responsible and patriotic thing to do to accept that invitation gratefully and have a conversation.”

Should Heitkamp depart for the Trump team, North Dakota Democrats would likely lose their last lever of power in the state. The party has no elected state officials and faces an overwhelming 119-22 Republican majority in the Legislature. North Dakota’s other two congressional delegates are Republicans.

Mac Schneider, state Senate minority leader in the last session and one of 15 Democratic incumbents who lost in last month’s election, did not comment directly on possible consequences to the party, other than to say that Democrats are “looking forward to the jolt of enthusiasm” that her Senate re-election campaign would provide.

“Obviously we’re thrilled to have Sen. Heitkamp lead the party in North Dakota,” Schneider said. “I think she would be a tremendous asset to the country whether she’s a U.S. senator or whether she’s serving an American president in an administration. She has world class talent.”

Kylie Oversen, chair of the state Democratic Party who lost her House seat last month, was not available for an interview. She said in a statement that the invitation from Trump shows that Heitkamp has been “an effective moderate voice for North Dakota and rural America.”

If Heitkamp joins the Trump administration, Democrats still have some hope because North Dakota’s governor no longer has the authority to pick a replacement. A GOP-sponsored bill passed during the last session changed the procedure to allow for a special election to fill vacancies for U.S. senators.

Heitkamp’s background would seem to make her a candidate for energy secretary. She served for more than a decade as a director of the Dakota Gasification Company, a coal and natural gas company. As North Dakota’s onetime attorney general, she sat on the state’s Industrial Commission, which promotes and regulates the production of energy.

Heitkamp was already on her way to New York, even before she heard from Trump’s camp. She plans to attend the hockey game between the University of North Dakota and Boston College at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.

“I already had my ticket,” Heitkamp said, chuckling. “So it all worked out.”

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide