Heidi Heitkamp

Heidi Heitkamp
United States Senator
from North Dakota
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Serving with John Hoeven
Preceded by Kent Conrad
28th Attorney General of North Dakota
In office
December 15, 1992  December 15, 2000
Governor Ed Schafer
Preceded by Nicholas Spaeth
Succeeded by Wayne Stenehjem
20th Tax Commissioner of North Dakota
In office
December 2, 1986  December 15, 1992
Governor George Sinner
Preceded by Kent Conrad
Succeeded by Robert Hanson
Personal details
Born Mary Kathryn Heitkamp
(1955-10-30) October 30, 1955
Breckenridge, Minnesota, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Darwin Lange
Children 2
Alma mater University of North Dakota (BA)
Lewis and Clark College (JD)

Mary Kathryn "Heidi" Heitkamp (born October 30, 1955) is an attorney and politician who has been the junior United States Senator from North Dakota since 2013. A member of the North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party, she is the first woman elected to the US Senate from North Dakota. She served as the 28th North Dakota Attorney General from 1993 to 2001 and as State Tax Commissioner from 1989 to 1993.

Heitkamp ran for governor of North Dakota in 2000 and lost to Republican John Hoeven. She considered a bid for the Democratic nomination in the 2010 U.S. Senate election to replace retiring Senator Byron Dorgan,[1] but on March 3, 2010, declined to run against Hoeven, who was ultimately elected.[2]

In November 2011, Heitkamp declared her candidacy to replace Kent Conrad as U.S. Senator from North Dakota in the 2012 election.[3] She narrowly defeated Republican Congressman Rick Berg on November 6, 2012, in that year's closest Senate race. Berg conceded the next day.[4] Heitkamp is North Dakota's second female senator, after Jocelyn Burdick, who was appointed to the office.[5]

Early life, education, and early career

Heitkamp was born in Breckenridge, Minnesota, the fourth of seven children of Doreen LaVonne (née Berg), a school cook, and Raymond Bernard Heitkamp, a janitor and construction worker.[6][7] Her father was of German descent, while her mother has half Norwegian and half German ancestry.[6] Heitkamp was raised in Mantador, North Dakota, attending local public schools. She earned a B.A. from the University of North Dakota in 1977 and a J.D. from Lewis and Clark Law School in 1980.[8] Heitkamp interned for the US Congress in 1976 and in the state legislature in 1977.[7]

Practicing attorney and politics

In 1980-81, Heitkamp worked as an attorney for the United States Environmental Protection Agency.[9] She next worked as an attorney for North Dakota State Tax Commissioner Kent Conrad.[7]

She also became active in politics, joining the North Dakota Democratic -Nonpartisan League Party. In 1984, Heitkamp ran for North Dakota State Auditor but was defeated by incumbent Republican Robert W. Peterson.[7] In 1986, Conrad decided to resign as Tax Commisioner in order to run for the U.S. Senate. Heitkamp ran for State Tax Commissioner and won the election with 66% of the vote against Republican Marshall Moore.[10] She served in that position until 1992.

Attorney General

In 1992, the incumbent North Dakota Attorney General, Democrat Nick Spaeth, decided to retire in order to run for governor. Heitkamp ran for the position and won with 62% of the vote.[11] In 1996, she won reelection with 64% of the vote.[12]

As Attorney General of North Dakota, Heitkamp became known for leading the state's legal efforts for damages against tobacco companies, eventually resulting in the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.[13] This provides for the tobacco companies to pay the state funds to be applied to health care costs, as illnesses and deaths attributable to the ill effects of smoking have affected the state's costs.

2000 gubernatorial election

In 2000, incumbent Republican Governor Ed Schafer decided not to seek a third term. Heitkamp ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. On the Republican side, John Hoeven, CEO of the Bank of North Dakota, also ran unopposed. During her campaign for governor, it was announced that Heitkamp had been diagnosed with breast cancer, which is now in remission. Hoeven defeated her 55% to 45%. Heitkamp won 12 of the state's 53 counties.[14]

Business career (2001–2011)

From 2001 to 2012, Heitkamp served as the director of Dakota Gasification Company's Great Plains Synfuels Plant.[15][16][17]

Her brother, Joel, is a radio talk-show host and former North Dakota state senator. Heitkamp has occasionally filled in as host of his program, News and Views, which is broadcast on Clear Channel stations in North Dakota.

U.S. Senate

2012 election

In January 2011, incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Kent Conrad announced his intent to retire instead of seeking a fourth full term in 2012.[18] On November 8, 2011, Heitkamp announced that she would seek the open seat.[19] She vowed to be "an independent voice."[20]

Heitkamp was attacked in commercials for accepting campaign contributions from Jack McConnell, Jr., a trial lawyer assigned by her, when she was state attorney general, to help North Dakota implement its settlement with tobacco companies. She released an ad to respond to these allegations.[21]

Heitkamp won the November 6, 2012, Senate election by 2,994 votes, less than 1% of the ballots cast. Berg conceded the race the next day[22] though he could have asked for a "demand recount" under North Dakota law. This permits candidates to demand a recount if they lose an election by more than 0.5% but less than 2% of the vote cast for the candidate receiving the most votes.[23]

Heitkamp is North Dakota's second female U.S. Senator and the first to be elected to the office.[24] She represents the state in the Senate with Republican John Hoeven, her former opponent in the governor's race.

Committee assignments

Political positions

Health care

Heitkamp has said that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act contains "good and bad" and "it needs to be fixed." She criticized her Senate opponent Rick Berg for wanting to repeal the law, citing concerns about insurance companies denying coverage to children with preexisting conditions.[25] Berg and the NRSC criticized Heitkamp for offering unqualified support for the health care law until she ran for the Senate in 2011, citing footage of her at a 2010 rally where she called the bill "a legacy vote" without any criticism of it.[26][27]

During the United States federal government shutdown of 2013, Heitkamp criticized Republican attempts to use the Continuing Appropriations Resolution as "a vehicle to legislate other issues," such as the defunding of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and a delay of its individual mandate.[28] Heitkamp was one of 14 members of the bipartisan Senate group that negotiated the compromise that was the basis of the eventual deal to end the shutdown.[29] During the government shutdown in 2013, Heitkamp donated about $8,000 of her salary to North Dakota charities that support veterans, provide healthcare supplies to those that cannot afford them, and raise Breast Cancer awareness.[30]


Heitkamp said she would support a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution "with exceptions" if elected. Heitkamp said such exceptions would include wartime spending, Social Security, Medicare, and a ban on tax cuts for those making more than $1 million per year.[31]


Heitkamp announced in a campaign press release in 2012 that she supports the Buffett Rule. Heitkamp supports implementing the Buffett Rule via the Paying a Fair Share Act, which would require those making a gross income of $1,000,000 or more to pay at least a 30% federal tax rate.[32]

Filibuster reform

Heitkamp said she supports reforming the filibuster in the United States Senate, but did not specifically endorse the Merkley/Udall/Harkin proposal for doing so.[33]


Heitkamp said she supports the Keystone XL pipeline because it will create jobs, decrease America's dependence on foreign oil from the Middle East, and help drive down the national debt.[34] She also said many who oppose hydraulic fracturing have been exposed to "junk science" and do not know what it really is.[35] She was Climate Hawks Vote's lowest-rated Democratic senator on climate leadership in the 113th Congress and remains among the lowest in 2015.[36][37]

Same-sex marriage

On April 5, 2013, Heitkamp announced her support of same-sex marriage, along with fellow Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana), who entered the Senate the same time Heitkamp did. Both are Roman Catholics.[38]

Gun control

On April 11, 2013, Heitkamp explained in an interview that she intended to vote against the Manchin-Toomey amendment introduced in the Senate after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which would have amended the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act to expand background checks to gun shows and internet purchases.[39] Heitkamp said, "I'm going to represent my state. ... in the end it's not what any other senator believes. It's about what the people of North Dakota believe."[39] Polling suggests that the majority of North Dakotans approve of prohibiting individuals on the No-Fly list from buying firearms and ammunition,[40][41] but in June 2016, after the Orlando nightclub mass shooting, Heitkamp voted against such a prohibition. She was the only Democratic senator to do so.[42] She instead appeared in support of a "compromise gun bill" proposed by Susan Collins.[43]

Personal life

Heitkamp is married to Darwin Lange, a family practitioner. They reside in Mandan and are the parents of two adult children, Ali and Nathan.[44]

Electoral history

North Dakota U.S. Senate Election 2012[45]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic-NPL Heidi Heitkamp 161,337 50.24
Republican Rick Berg 158,401 49.32
North Dakota Gubernatorial Election 2000[46]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican John Hoeven 159,255 55.03
Democratic-NPL Heidi Heitkamp 130,144 44.97
North Dakota Attorney General election, 1996
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic-NPL Heidi Heitkamp (inc.) 167,863 63.82
Republican Ward Johnson 95,164 36.18
North Dakota Attorney General election, 1992
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic-NPL Heidi Heitkamp 186,606 62.37
Republican Warren "Duke" Albrecht 112,562 37.63


  1. Miller, Sean J. (January 7, 2010). "Heitkamp 'very interested' in rematch with Hoeven". The Hill.
  2. McPike, Erin (March 3, 2010). "Heitkamp Won't Run In ND". The Hotline. Retrieved March 3, 2010.
  3. Daum, Kristen M (November 8, 2011). "SPECULATION NO MORE: Heitkamp announces U.S. Senate run". Flickertales from The Hill. Retrieved November 13, 2014.
  4. "Democrat Heidi Heitkamp defeats Republican Rick Berg to win US Senate race in North Dakota", Associated Press November 7, 2012; accessed November 13, 2014.
  5. "Election Night in North Dakota". kfyrtv.com. November 7, 2012. Retrieved November 13, 2014.
  6. 1 2 "Heitkamp genealogy site", Freepages, Rootsweb.ancestry.com; accessed November 13, 2014.
  7. 1 2 3 4 "From 'cleanup girl' to senator: Heitkamp talks of working class roots, large family". Dickinson Press. 16 December 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  8. "HEITKAMP, Mary Kathryn (Heidi)". Washington, D.C.: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. January 3, 2013. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
  9. Heidi Heitkamp biography, dakotagas.com; accessed November 13, 2014.
  10. "ND Tax Commissioner Race - November 8, 1988". Our Campaigns. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  11. "ND Attorney General Race". Our Campaigns. November 3, 1992. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  12. "ND Attorney General Race". Our Campaigns. November 5, 1996. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  13. "Attorneys General announce Tobacco Settlement Proposal" (Press release). Washington State Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved November 13, 2014.
  14. "ND Governor Race - November 7, 2000". Our Campaigns. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  15. "In North Dakota, a Competitive Contest for Senate". nytimes.com. September 30, 2012. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
  16. Smith, Nick (October 7, 2012). "Heitkamp campaigns on problem solving over partisanship". bismarcktribune.com. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
  17. Nelson, Eliot (January 3, 2013). "Heidi Heitkamp Sworn In To Senate, Awkwardness Ensues". huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  18. Haga, Chuck (January 18, 2011). "Conrad's current Senate term his last". Grand Forks Herald. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  19. "ND Democrat Heidi Heitkamp to run for US Senate". Yahoo! News. Associated Press. November 8, 2011. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  20. Camia, Catalina (November 8, 2011). "Democrats promote Heitkamp in N.D. Senate race". USA Today. Retrieved November 11, 2011.
  21. James Hohmann (August 16, 2012). "Ryan welcomes Medicare fight--Obama defends Biden--Crossroads hits Heitkamp--First DCCC IE of the cycle--Sabato says Wisconsin Senate leans Republican". Politico.
  22. Eccher, Marino (November 7, 2012). "Berg concedes Senate race, averting recount". Forum Communications. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  23. "2011–13 North Dakota Secretary of State Recount Guidelines" (PDF). vip.sos.nd.gov. August 2011. Retrieved November 10, 2012. NDCC § 16.1-16-01(2)(b) Demand Recounts – If an individual fails to be elected by more than 0.5% but less than 2% of the vote cast for the candidate receiving the most votes for the office sought.
  24. McElwaine, Sandra (January 23, 2014). "Never Bet Against Senator Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota's Rising Star". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  25. Rachel Weiner (June 18, 2012). "Heidi Heitkamp runs with Obamacare". Washington Post.
  26. Toeplitz, Shira (June 18, 2012). "North Dakota: New Heidi Heitkamp Spot Tackles Health Care". Roll Call. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  27. Mike Nowatzki (October 28, 2012). "Poll: 60% in ND oppose Obamacare". The Dickinson Express. Retrieved October 21, 2013.
  28. Mike Nowatzki (October 2, 2013). "ND delegation members call for compromise to end gov't shutdown". The Dickinson Press. Retrieved October 17, 2013.
  29. Mike Nowatzki (October 16, 2013). "Heitkamp on Senate debt limit deal: 'The adults are taking charge'". Grand Forks Herald. Retrieved October 17, 2013.
  30. O'Keefe, Ed (February 28, 2014). "10 ways members gave back after the government shutdown". Washington Post. Retrieved August 13, 2014.
  31. Celock, John (September 13, 2012). "Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota Senate Candidate, Touts Obama Independence In New Ad". huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  32. "Heitkamp Challenges Rep. Berg: Focus on Deficit Reduction and Support Buffett Rule, Not Cutting Your Own Taxes". heidifornorthdakota.com. April 9, 2012. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  33. "Senate Dem freshmen want party to back 'talking filibuster'". The Hill. Retrieved February 12, 2015.
  34. Page, Susan (September 27, 2013). "Heitkamp warns Obama on Keystone XL Pipeline approval". USA Today. Retrieved October 17, 2013.
  35. Michael, McAuliff (September 13, 2012). "Heidi Heitkamp Fracking Views Clash With Major Donors' Interest". huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  36. Sheppard, Kate (2015-04-29). "Prospective Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders Scores High In New 'Climate Hawk' Ranking". The Huffington Post. New York, NY: AOL. Retrieved 2015-04-30.
  37. "Pages Tagged 'Climate Hawks Vote'". Climate Hawks Vote. 2015-04-30. Retrieved 2015-05-02.
  38. Robillard, Kevin (April 5, 2013). "Two more Democratic senators endorse gay marriage". Politico. Retrieved April 5, 2013.
  39. 1 2 Weisman, Jonathan (April 11, 2013). "For Swing-State Democrats, Political Liability on Gun Control Issue". New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2013.
  40. "No-Fly List Gun Control Poll Results for North Dakota Voters". iSideWith. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  41. Inc., Gallup,. "Guns". Gallup.com. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  42. Atkinson, Khorri. "GOP blocks bill to stop terrorists from buying guns". MSNBC. MSNBC. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  43. Kim, Seung Min; Everett, Burgess; Caygle, Heather (June 21, 2016). "Senate talks heat up on compromise gun bill". Politico. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  44. "Mary 'Heidi' Kathryn Heitkamp". The Washington Times. Retrieved August 4, 2015.
  45. "Official Portal for North Dakota State Government - Secretary of State - Election Night Results". November 6, 2012. Retrieved December 1, 2012.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Kent Conrad
Tax Commissioner of North Dakota
Succeeded by
Robert Hanson
Preceded by
Nicholas Spaeth
Attorney General of North Dakota
Succeeded by
Wayne Stenehjem
Party political offices
Preceded by
Lee Kaldor
Democratic nominee for Governor of North Dakota
Succeeded by
Joe Satrom
Preceded by
Kent Conrad
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from North Dakota
(Class 1)

Most recent
United States Senate
Preceded by
Kent Conrad
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from North Dakota
Served alongside: John Hoeven
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Deb Fischer
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Ed Markey
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