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Tribune editorial: Heitkamp is a good fit for ag secretary

Tribune editorial: Heitkamp is a good fit for ag secretary

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It would benefit North Dakota and the nation if Heidi Heitkamp is selected as the next secretary of agriculture.

It’s becoming more likely by the day that former Vice President Joe Biden will become president in January, and he’ll need people capable of working with both parties. One of the first tasks he’s tackling involves selecting a Cabinet. Heitkamp demonstrated the ability to work across the aisle while a senator from 2013-19.

Heitkamp has appeared on a number of short lists for ag secretary since media outlets declared Biden the presidential winner. While her recent comments about her interest in a Cabinet post have been somewhat evasive, Heitkamp told the Tribune editorial board last year she would be interested in a Cabinet position under a Democratic administration.

When Donald Trump was elected president in 2016 he interviewed Heitkamp, apparently for ag secretary, but nothing came of it. The Tribune editorial board believes Heitkamp’s best fit would be at agriculture, but she also could do a fine job at interior or treasury. There should be a role for Heitkamp in Biden’s administration.

Heitkamp has served North Dakota well over the years. She was attorney general from 1992 to 2000 and then lost a bid for governor to John Hoeven in 2000. She won a tight race for the U.S. Senate against Rep. Rick Berg and then lost her reelection bid to Rep. Kevin Cramer. Biden campaigned for Heitkamp during her race against Cramer.

Since leaving the Senate she’s been involved in the One Country Project with former Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly. The project seeks to revitalize Democrats’ connection with rural America. Heitkamp also has been an occasional guest on national talk shows.

Her knowledge of trade, marketing and policy issues make her well qualified for ag secretary. She’s a moderate and well known in the Senate, which will make it easier for her to be confirmed if Republicans retain control of the chamber.

If she's nominated, Hoeven and Cramer should fight for her confirmation. Having Heitkamp in the Cabinet would give North Dakota a valuable voice in the Biden administration. It’s not often a North Dakotan lands in the Cabinet.

The two most recent Cabinet members were former Gov. Ed Schafer and Thomas Kleppe.

Kleppe was the former mayor of Bismarck and two-term member of the U.S. House when President Gerald Ford appointed him secretary of interior. President George W. Bush selected Schafer as the agriculture secretary for 2008-09.

The Tribune editorial board urges Biden to nominate Heitkamp for agriculture secretary and for North Dakotans to support her.

Honor our veterans

Veterans Day ceremonies have been scaled back today because of COVID-19. The ceremonies, which begin at 10:45 a.m. on the Capitol grounds, will be held outside. Even with a pandemic we can honor our veterans by displaying the flag and thanking the vets we know.

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