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Port: Heitkamp launches re-election campaign amid the stench of nepotism and avoidance

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp has officially started her re-election campaign. The news surprised exactly nobody given the millions in out of state contributions she's been stuffing into her campaign accounts since January.She chose her brother Joel Heitka...

columnist Rob Port
columnist Rob Port

 

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp has officially started her re-election campaign. The news surprised exactly nobody given the millions in out of state contributions she's been stuffing into her campaign accounts since January.

She chose her brother Joel Heitkamp's radio show on KFGO in Fargo for the announcement.

Perhaps there is a bit of logic to that. Heitkamp's victory in 2012 putting her in the Senate was so narrow it was measured by just a few thousand votes.

That her brother used his radio station, positioned in the state's most populous region, as a sort of propaganda ministry for her campaign that year was no small factor.

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Things look differently in 2018. Joel Heitkamp, a braying jabroni of a man, has managed to tank his radio station's ratings like a besotted Ted Kennedy driving his car off a bridge.

According to the Nielsen ratings, KFGO's over-12-years-old audience has declined more than 45 percent since the last time Heidi Heitkamp was on the statewide ballot.

But the senator chose her brother's radio show for his announcement anyway, despite his diminished capacity for relevance.

Meanwhile, she continues her long-standing pattern of avoiding her critics, putting lie to her assiduously cultivated image of an open, down-to- earth elected leader.

In my 14 years of writing and broadcasting in North Dakota the only politician, Republican or Democrat, who has consistently refused my requests for interviews or comments is Heidi Heitkamp.

I can't even get her office to put me on their email distribution list for press releases.

Nor am I alone.

"We ask her to come on every week through her comm shop," right-of-center talk radio host Scott Hennen told me when I asked him if he had difficulty booking Heitkamp. "The answer is never 'we don't want to do your show.' It's always 'we're too busy' or 'no time in her schedule'."

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"There's only one thing any reasonable person would conclude from all of this. She doesn't care about a conservative audience. Which is odd because she'll never be elected again with that approach," he added.

Chris Berg, who hosts the Point of View television program on Valley News Live, has had similar problems booking Heitkamp.

He says he regularly books other Democrats, but North Dakota's junior senator won't give him the time of day.

"It's just sad that a woman who has been in politics all these years won't come on and answer the tough questions," he told me.

"She works for all North Dakotans, so you would think she would want to speak to all North Dakotans," he added.

Yeah, you'd think. That's certainly the message Heitkamp tries to send the public. That she represents all of us.

Actions speak louder than words.

Heitkamp being accessible to all of her constituents isn't necessarily her best strategy for getting re-elected.

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If there's one thing Heitkamp likely values over all else, it's holding on to power.

North Dakotans should expect something better of their elected leaders.

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