WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2015 – U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp says she won’t run for North Dakota governor in 2016, dashing the hopes of some Democrats who saw her as their best hope for claiming the state’s top office.
Calling in to her brother Joel Heitkamp’s radio show in Fargo, the 59-year-old first term senator said being governor would be “the greatest honor you can have,” but added, “I don’t think this is the time to make this race.”
Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, had been mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor even before the present office-holder, Republican Jack Dalrymple, announced in late August that he wanted to spend more time with his family and wouldn’t seek re-election.
A former state tax commissioner and attorney general, Heitkamp ran for governor before, in 2000, losing by more than 29,000 votes, or about 10 percentage points, in a solidly Republican state to John Hoeven, now her colleague in the U.S. Senate.
In 2012, she won the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Kent Conrad, beating freshman U.S. Rep. Rick Berg.
Heitkamp’s decision was seen as welcome news for national Democrats. If she had left the Senate to run for governor, it may have complicated the party’s chances of regaining control of the chamber in 2016. She isn’t up for reelection until 2018.
The last time a Democrat won a governor’s race in North Dakota was in 1988.
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