- Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, is distancing herself from her party just weeks after attracting a strong Republican challenger in her reelection contest.
- Just this week, Heitkamp was critical of comments former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton made about the president’s supporters and battled against her more progressive Democratic colleagues over a bank deregulation bill.
- Heitkamp is one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for reelection this year.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a vulnerable North Dakota Democrat, is distancing herself from her party just weeks after attracting a strong Republican challenger in her reelection contest.
On her brother Joel Heitkamp’s radio show this week, the senator criticised former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s recent characterization of President Donald Trump’s campaign as “looking backwards.” (Clinton added that she won parts of the country that are “optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward.”)
“When does Hillary Clinton ride off into the sunset?” Joel asked.
“I don’t know, not soon enough,” the senator responded.
“She’s bashing the middle of this country and my state again,” Joel said. “I don’t need her to do that.”
“I know,” Heitkamp replied.
The senator’s spokesperson told CNN on Thursday, “Heidi will never stand for comments that insult North Dakotans and rural America – no matter who, or which party, they come from.”
The midwestern lawmaker enthusiastically backed Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid, saying she would be “one of the greatest presidents of the United States of America that we have ever seen.”
A few other red-state Democrats, including Sens. Claire McCaskill and Sherrod Brown, also attempted to distance themselves from Clinton’s remarks this week.
Last month, Rep. Kevin Cramer, a Trump ally recruited to run by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, announced he will challenge Heitkamp, who is one of 10 Democratic senators running for reelection this year in states that Trump won in 2016.
Heitkamp’s comments came amid her battle with members of her own party over legislation that would rescind some of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulations. The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, which Heitkamp co-sponsored, passed the Senate on Wednesday with 17 Democratic votes. Its supporters say it will reduce burdensome compliance costs for small banks in rural areas, but its critics say it would undo important regulations on larger banks with assets in the hundreds of billions.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who led the progressive opposition to the bill, which she nicknamed the “Bank Lobbyist Act,” argued it will increase risk in the financial system and make another devastating economic crisis more likely. Warren accused her Democratic colleagues – many of them from red states – of voting “against working Americans.”
“She doesn’t live where I live,” Heitkamp told the Atlantic of her blue state colleague.
“I think it’s really unfortunate that she has misled people regarding this bill,” Heitkamp went on. “Some of the things that she has said are incorrect, and I cannot let the legislative history of this legislation be what Elizabeth Warren says it is.”
Heitkamp has generally advocated for working with the president and his administration when possible and, in a meeting last spring, called the anti-Trump “Resistance” movement “a waste of my time.”
“Why would I be there if all I’m there to do is say no?” she said.