Heidi Heitkamp

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Heidi Heitkamp

Template:TOCnestleft Heidi Heitkamp born 1955, is a Democratic member of the United States Senate, representing the state of North Dakota. She was first elected in November 2012.[1]

Heidi Heitkamp is the sister of Thomasine Heitkamp, and aunt of Evan Heitkamp Boucher.

Early life/family

"I was the first mix cleanup girl at Bridgman's Creamery," she said proudly, as if claiming a major political victory.

"I had to scrape the walls of 50-gallon vats where they had scalded the chocolate milk," she said. "My roommate didn't want to live with me anymore because I came home smelling of stale milk.

"I always carried a pipe wrench too, for cleaning the lines, and I went on breaks with the guys. I really thought I was something."

She told the story recently while visiting with Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown at Dakota Harvest Bakery, mixing serious talk about housing, economic development and supporting Grand Forks Air Force Base with reminiscences about her time in the city when she was young.

Brown is an old family friend, not through Heitkamp but through her husband, Darwin Lange, a doctor in Mandan, N.D.

She and Lange have two children: daughter Alethea Heitkamp, 27, is in a master's degree program in the Washington, D.C., area. Son Nathan Heitkamp, 22, is at home, working as he thinks about returning to college.

Siblings are , Dennis Heitkamp, Fullerton, Calif., computer analyst; Thomasine Heitkamp, Grand Forks, professor of social work at UND; Julie Prochnow, Wahpeton, works at a tech company; Melanie Heitkamp, Bismarck, runs a large nonprofit; Holly Heitkamp, Fargo, works for Moorhead parks and recreation; Joel Heitkamp, Fargo, radio talk show host, former state senator.

Lange will continue the medical practice he has shared for more than 25 years with Dr. Dale Klein, his best friend in medical school.

In the midst of her 2000 campaign for governor, Heitkamp announced that doctors had diagnosed breast cancer. She cut back on campaigning as she underwent treatment but stayed in the race, which she lost to John Hoeven, who moved to the Senate in 2010. As the state's new senior senator, he will welcome Heitkamp to the chamber next month.

"My health is good," she said during the Grand Forks visit. "It was really good all through the campaign."

Heitkamp is the middle child of seven raised by Ray Heitkamp and Doreen Heitkamp in little Mantador, in southeastern North Dakota.

Their father was a seasonal construction worker and school janitor. Their mother was the school cook.

Education/early politics

B.A., UND, 1977; J.D., Lewis and Clark Law School, 1980.

Heidi Heitkamp was at UND from 1973 to 1977, and she talks about her arrival on campus still with wide-eyed wonder.

"My father didn't graduate from high school," she said. "When we came here to UND, it all seemed so big, so exotic. 'Wow, we've come all the way to UND!' There were so many thinkers here."

She fondly recalls professors who "made it come alive" and "forced me to think," she said. "I felt like people took an interest in me."

In 1976, as an intern in Washington, she worked with a congressional study group and saw herself as someone laboring for good behind the scenes. "I was going to be the person who helped people like (retiring Sen. Kent Conrad and (former Sen. Byron Dorgan."

Her focus changed in 1977, when she had an internship at the state Capitol in Bismarck as a bill status reporter.

"Up to then, my whole focus was national," Heitkamp said. "In school, I had studied early colonial and post-colonial U.S. history and constitutional history. But work at the Capitol really drove my interest to state government."

The state House that session was evenly divided politically, and the parties were led by "interesting characters" -- Earl Strinden of Grand Forks for the Republicans, Richard Backes of Glenburn for the Democrats.

"Watching them and that session, I knew I wanted to be in public policy," Heitkamp said. "That's why I wanted a law degree. I wanted to be involved."

After law school in Oregon, Heitkamp moved to Bismarck in 1981 and worked for Conrad, then tax commissioner, now the state's senior senator. His retirement opened the door for her run this year.

In 1982, Conrad had told her she should run for something. Two years later, at the 1984 state party convention in Minot, people again talked to her about running for something. When she arrived on the convention floor, someone had put up a big banner with her name writ large three times.

"The reporters came rushing to me and asking, 'What are you running for?' 'Nothing!' I said."

But she was drafted to run for state auditor. She came close but lost to the incumbent Republican. But that race "created the path" that led to her appointment as tax commissioner, she said, and, in 1992, her election as state attorney general.

Now, as U.S. senator-elect, she confers often with her old mentors.

"I've been talking with Conrad and Dorgan about what to expect, what to do," Heitkamp said. "I've talked with Byron so much, he's going to get sick of hearing from me. But it's like having two great -- and free -- consultants."

She has followed in their path again with her Senate committee assignments, including Agriculture and Indian Affairs. She also is likely to pursue one of her long-standing interests: reducing violence against women.

"As attorney general, I fell in love with the law enforcement community," she said. "I got to be great friends with a lot of sheriffs and police chiefs, and the greatest joy I had as attorney general was working with those guys. They aren't social workers, but they see the dynamic and they want to keep people safe."

She was giving a talk somewhere as attorney general, she said, and "a grizzled old guy came up and said, 'Listen girl, men will always beat their wives, and there's nothing you can do to stop it.' "[2]

Equal Rights Amendment

Heidi Heitkamp found fascination with public policy after internships in Congress in 1976 and in the state legislature in 1977. Former Senator Kent Conrad then hired her, and she worked with him and the Equal Rights Amendment in Washington D.C., until he asked her to run for office.[3]


Heidi Heitkamp grew up in North Dakota and served as State Tax Commissioner and State Attorney General, both elected positions. In each of those contests, she won over 60% of the vote and voters still rate her very favorably.

Heitkamp is remembered more than two-to-one positively for her job as State Attorney General, and has high favorability ratings. As attorney general, she was a leader in the national settlement with the tobacco companies that required them to pay restitution to the states.

Heidi Heitkamp grew up in modest circumstances in North Dakota and is one of seven children. When she was young, she worked for the Equal Rights Amendment and became very interested in the environment. She graduated from Lewis and Clark School of Law in Oregon, which has a special focus on the environment.

Heitkamp became an environmental attorney with the Environmental Protection Agency, but left when Ronald Reagan became President. She realized in stark terms that who is elected makes a real difference. She returned home and began to work for Kent Conrad, who was then state tax commissioner in North Dakota.

At the age of 28, she lost her first election in a close race to become N.D. Auditor. When Conrad ran for the Senate, Heitkamp stepped up to serve as State Tax Commissioner. Two years later she ran for the office and won. She was a popular two-term attorney general, but lost her quest to become North Dakota’s governor in 2000. The contest was close, but she was handicapped when two months before the election she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, which has long been in remission.[4]

Admired by Communist


Fargo Communist Party USA member Lewis Lubka loves Heidi Heitkamp.

ARA endorsement, 2012

The Alliance for Retired Americans endorsed Heidi Heitkamp in 2012.[5]

2012 CLW Senate victories


2012 CLW Senate Victories were;

Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Chris Murphy (D-CT) Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).[6]

The Council said of Heitkamp;

As a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Heitkamp stands for sensible foreign policy and endorses withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan and the reset of U.S. relations with Russia. She supports ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the goal of securing and retrieving vulnerable nuclear-weapons usable materials worldwide within four years.[7]

Filibuster reform

The Communications Workers of America is to make filibuster reform a top cause and they're trying to bring the rest of the union movement along. The union reiterated that goal in post-election comments.

"The 2012 election makes the reform even more paramount," it said. "Seven Democratic senators-elect - Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Tim Kaine (Va.), Chris Murphy (Conn.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) - have all already pledged to Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., to support rules reform. And Maine's Independent candidate, former Gov. Angus King won on a platform included filibuster reform as a major campaign issue.

"The American people want their elected officials to debate and address the major issues of our time and to move past obstruction for obstruction's sake," added CWA Legislative Director Shane Larson.[8]

"Trust Russia"

Andrea Mitchell asked Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) why she and Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) are willing to trust Bashar al-Assad to be forthcoming in turning over his chemical weapons to international authorities Tuesday on MSNBC.

Heidtkamp replied we are not trusting Assad, but Russia to "come to the table" on Syria:

ANDREA MITCHELL: Let me ask both of you, Senator Heitkamp, let me ask both of you, why would you trust Assad? Assad has until this initiative denied there was an attack, denied he was part of it, denied he has chemical weapons. Why on earth would we trust this man to tell us he's turned them all over to international monitoring and that he is signing a treaty that he's never [recognized]?

HEIDI HEITKAMP: We're not trusting Assad. We're trusting the Russians to come to the table.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Whoa, you're trusting the Russians?

HEIDI HEITKAMP: We're trusting Russia's intent at this point to actually deliver the right set of circumstances. I've said all along we're waiting of words are not enough. We have to see action. So it is the combination of Russia with Syria and understanding that there is this threat. That we're very serious in this country about enforcing the ban on chemical weapons one way or the other and they need to bring this country into compliance.[9]

Radical nephew

In May 2015, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp hosted a graduation reception in Washington for Thomasine Heitkamp's son, Evan Heitkamp Boucher, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. [10]

Evan Heitkamp Boucher would later become a leading member of Democratic Socialists of America.

Cuba visit

With an annual cost of roughly $2 million per detainee, the 13-year-old Guantanamo Bay Detention Center needs to be closed, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont said.

Tester, who toured Guantanamo early February 2014, said then the subject comes up later this year, he will push to close the facility, where the Department of Defense houses 155 detainees, many without trial, some since Jan. 11, 2002 and the beginning of the war in Afghanistan.

Tester toured Guantanamo Bay on Saturday as part of a two-day visit to Cuba, with Sens., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

The senators also met with American Alan Gross, who has been jailed in Cuba since 2010 for setting up unrestricted Internet access for Jewish groups. Cuba considered Gross’ actions subversive and sentenced the Marylander to 15 years detention.

Tester said there was also talk with Cuban officials about the Cuban trade embargo launched in 1960 after the Cuban Revolution ushered Fidel Castro’s communist government into power. There is talk in the United States of easing the embargo and lawmakers from farm states see an opportunity for trade if that occurs.

Tester said the rule of Fidel Castro’s brother, Raul, could present the best opportunity for normalizing relations with Cuba without presenting a threat to the Fidel Castro legacy. But Raul Castro is old and the opportunity might not last forever.

“Raul is 83 years old and in very good health. He’s one of the few people who could do this from a Cuban perspective,” Tester said.[11]

Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015

S 299, the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015, principal sponsors are Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.[12]

By May 20, it had accumulated 33 co-sponsors, including 26 Democrats - Sheldon Whitehouse, Tom Udall, Dick Durbin, Thomas Carper, Amy Klobuchar, Barbara Boxer, Jack Reed, Debbie Stabenow, Jeff Merkley, Chris Murphy, Benjamin Cardin, Chris Coons, Dianne Feinstein, Jeanne Shaheen, Sherrod Brown, Mazie Hirono, Brian Schatz, Tammy Baldwin, Ed Markey, Heidi Heitkamp, Jon Tester, Claire McCaskill, Ron Wyden, Tim Kaine, Al Franken, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bennet, Martin Heinrich . [13]

Meeting Castro


North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp says she’s hoping that a face-to-face meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro will open the door to more U.S. agricultural exports.

Heitkamp was one of two senators and a handful of representatives to meet Friday in New York with Castro, the first Cuban leader to visit the United States in 15 years.

The Democratic senator says it might be difficult to find enough support to lift a trade embargo against Cuba, but she is pushing a bill that would finance agricultural exports. Cuba has a high demand for North Dakota crops like dry beans, peas and lentils.

Heitkamp visited Cuba in February 2014 but did not have a chance to meet Castro. She says the Cuban leader has invited her to return to his country.[14]

The meeting at the request of the Cuban Embassy lasted about an hour and a half, and included Sens. Heitkamp and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., as well as about eight congressmen, including Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., of Minnesota's Sixth District.

Heitkamp said Leahy, who has a long history of working to restore relations, mentioned the need for Cuba to improve human rights, which could get "more members interested" in expanding economic relationships.

The North Dakota senator said she was impressed with Castro's openness and willingness to "listen, and hear some things" that he doesn't like. She said Castro reiterated earlier statements that he intends to step down after another two years in the post.

Heitkamp said it was one of Castro's first meetings with American lawmakers since the U.S. and Cuba restored diplomatic ties. Heitkamp has worked in many ways to expand exports of U.S. agricultural commodities to Cuba, a country with high demand for North Dakota crops like dry beans, peas and lentils.[15]

2016 Cuba visit

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and 16 other House Democrats will join President Barack Obama on his historic trip to Cuba March 20-22.

Obama will be the first president to visit Cuba in 88 years, and the trip is a symbolic next chapter in his attempts to normalize relations with the country.

The House members will attend along with several senators who previously announced they will make the trip.

The House delegation includes Reps. Karen Bass, Cheri Bustos, Sam Farr, Rosa DeLauro, Barbara Lee, Charles Rangel, Kathy Castor, David Cicilline, Steve Cohen, Jan Schakowsky, Peter Welch, Alan Lowenthal, Jim McGovern and Lucille Roybal-Allard. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra of California will also travel to Cuba along with Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and Tom Udall of New Mexico are slated to join the trip. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has been a leading advocate for normalizing relations with Cuba, will also attend. Additional House Republicans may also join.

Pelosi previously led the first official House delegation trip to the country after Obama announced the change in U.S. policy toward Cuba in 2014.[16]

Cuba trade

A delegation of four senators and one representative of the United States Congress traveled to Cuba on Sunday, exactly a month after the arrival of a new president to the White House. One of the senators is a strong ally of President Trump.

Republican Thad Cochran, from Mississippi, who has decisively endorsed Trump’s initial decisions in the Senate, is among the delegation. The legislators are led by one of the main proponents of normalized relations with Cuba, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy (Vermont), notes the Cuban-US Economic and Trade Council.

The remaining members of the delegation are Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) and Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), as well as Rep. Jim McGovern (D- Massachusetts).

Except for Cochran and Bennet, the remaining legislators have visited the island on previous occasions.

The program for their visit to Cuba was not disclosed. The group is scheduled to leave the island on Wednesday, February 22nd 2017.

Cochran, the only Republican in the group, is a co-sponsor in the Senate of a bill providing for the Expansion of Agricultural Exports to Cuba. The legislation would eliminate the prohibition of granting private credit to finance agricultural sales to the island and thus seek greater access by US farmers to the Cuban market.

The bill is bipartisan and was introduced by Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) and John Boozman (R-Arkansas.).

Cochran chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee and has voted in favor of all those nominated by the president to his cabinet.[17]

External links



  1. National Journal "The New Faces of the 113th Congress," November 15, 2012
  2. ]http://www.thedickinsonpress.com/content/cleanup-girl-senator-heitkamp-talks-working-class-roots-large-family The Dickinson Press, From 'cleanup girl' to senator: Heitkamp talks of working class roots, large family By Dickinson Press Staff on Dec 16, 2012]
  3. [1]
  4. Meet the Candidates, accessed April 10, 2013
  5. PAF
  6. Meet the Candidates, accessed April 10, 2013
  7. CLW, 2012 bio, accessed july 2014
  8. PW, Momentum grows for ending the filibuster, by: Mark Gruenberg November 12 2012
  9. Heitkamp: ‘We’re Not Trusting Assad, We’re Trusting the Russians’ on SyriaFree Beacon Staff September 10, 2013
  10. Grand Forks herald, Small town siblings made a long journey By Marilyn Hagerty on Apr 25, 2015
  11. Billings Gazette, After trip to Cuba, Tester says it's time to close Guantanamo, February 10, 2014
  12. [ http://peoplesworld.org/cuba-travel-bill-advances-in-the-senate/PW, Cuba travel bill advances in the Senate by: Emile Schepers May 20 2015]
  13. [%22S+299%22}, Congress.Gov. S.299 - Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015114th Congress (2015-2016) | G]
  14. meets with Cuban leader about agricultural exports Washington Times, Heitkamp meets with Cuban leader about agricultural exports Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015
  15. Inforum Heitkamp urges Cuban president Castro to ease trade By Mikkel Pates / Forum News Service on Sep 30, 2015
  16. Politico, Pelosi, 16 House Democrats to join Obama trip to Cuba By Lauren French,| 03/14/16
  17. Havana Times, Trump Ally Joins Congressional Delegation to Cuba February 20, 2017 By Café Fuerte