Former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp is not jumping into the race for the Senate, but she has not ruled it out, either.
“I am flattered and grateful that so many people have urged me to run for the United States Senate,” Heitkamp wrote in a statement to media. “It is extremely premature for anyone to say that my decision is close to being made.”
In the new political scene created by Sen. Byron Dorgan’s decision not to run, possible candidates are emerging, but no one is embracing the title. Heitkamp, who lost to John Hoeven in the governor race in 2000, has been considered a strong candidate against a possible Hoeven candidacy.
The governor is expected to run, and has said he would announce a decision within two weeks.
In Heitkamp’s statement, she said she was weighing the decision and conferring with others in the party.
"I'm going to talk to my colleagues in the Democratic-NPL party about how we can field the very best candidate to follow in Byron Dorgan's footsteps,” she wrote. “I'm going to talk to my family and friends of course, but this is a decision no one should make in haste.”
The job’s requirement to spend six years in Washington “gives me great pause,” she wrote.
Heitkamp’s brother, Joel Heitkamp, said he and his sister were natural objects of speculation as prominent Democrats.
“Neither one of us has to send out talking points to get people to talk about us,” he said, but added that neither was doing more than considering options.
Heidi Heitkamp is one of the few Democrats to have held a statewide office and run a close statewide race against Hoeven. Joel Heitkamp is a former state legislator and political talk show host.
Heidi Heitkamp won 130,000 votes to Hoeven’s 159,000 in 2000. She was diagnosed with cancer shortly before the election, which might have hurt her chances.
“She was ahead in the polls before she got sick,” Joel Heitkamp said.
Former State Sen.Jim Maxson, D-Minot, asked Kristin Hedger, a candidate for secretary of state in 2006, to run for the seat.
Another potential candidate, cable talk show host Ed Schultz, became less likely to enter the race. He told a political blog that he was happy at his talk show, which he would have to give up as a candidate.
Public Service Commissioner Tony Clark issued a statement Thursday that he would stay in his job. He was considered a possible candidate to oppose Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., for the U.S. House.
Republican Commerce Director Shane Goettle said that he was considering his options for statewide office.
Some, including Joel Heitkamp, are holding out hope that Dorgan could be convinced to run again, but that is unlikely said Mark Schneider, chairman of the state Democrats.
“The senator has made his decision and before he even announced his decision every effort had been made to get him to change his mind,” he said.
Schneider said there was no rush to name a front-runner for the seat.
“We’re casting a broad net,” he said.
(Reach reporter Christopher Bjorke at 250-8261 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)