- Associated Press - Thursday, April 6, 2017

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Left-leaning voters in North Dakota are grappling with Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s support of President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, with some of them tempering disappointment with an acknowledgement of her looming re-election fight in a conservative state.

Longtime Democrat Willy Kirschner, a Fargo attorney, said he believes Heitkamp is too supportive of Republican policies and her backing of nominee Neil Gorsuch is too much for him to take.

“I’m very disappointed that Ms. Heitkamp is going to vote for Mr. Gorsuch,” Kirschner said. “I won’t be supporting her anymore.”

Democrat Dan Spiekermeier, a farmer near Sheldon in southeastern North Dakota, was more pragmatic. Although he’s still upset that Republicans did not allow a vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, he said it appears that Gorsuch is going to “judge fairly.”

“Some people among the Democrats need to be centrists, so I think she made the right call,” Spiekermeier said of Heitkamp.

Heitkamp last month declared her support for Gorsuch, citing “a record as a balanced, meticulous and well-respected jurist who understands the rule of law.” She also said she likes his experience with American Indian law and public lands issues in the West.

“Certainly this is part of her political style … generally not to antagonize the conservative voters of North Dakota,” said Mark Jendrysik, a University of North Dakota science professor. “Clearly, she’s indicated her willingness to work with the president on a number of issues. I don’t think it’s a surprise.”

Kylie Oversen, chairwoman of the North Dakota Democratic Party, said that Gorsuch “would not have been my first choice,” but believes Heitkamp made her decision based mostly on her research on the judge and not to appease voters in a Trump state.

Bruce Quick, a Democrat and a Fargo attorney who teaches civil liberties and criminal procedure at North Dakota State, said Heitkamp put politics aside and did the right thing, which should sell well among North Dakota residents.

“The rest of the Democrats are saying two wrongs make a right here, and I don’t buy that,” Quick said. “I think Heidi has the right approach.”

Jendrysik said Heitkamp’s stance on Gorsuch isn’t likely to have much of an impact on next year’s Senate race. Democrats would have little choice but to support her, he said, and the national Republican Party is likely to target her no matter what she does.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide