BISMARCK - Kevin Cramer overcame a wide fundraising disadvantage to defeat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp Tuesday, Nov. 6, as North Dakota voters replaced the only Democrat currently holding statewide office with a well-known Republican congressman and staunch ally of President Donald Trump.
In complete but unofficial results, Cramer defeated Heitkamp by a 55 percent to 44 percent margin with all 424 precincts reporting, according to the secretary of state’s website.
Speaking to Republican supporters gathered at Bismarck State College, Cramer thanked God, his family and staff. He recounted his initial decision to run for re-election in the House before jumping in the Senate race with prodding from Trump.
“There was an energy and an enthusiasm and an optimism from the very minute that we announced to this very moment right now, the likes of which I have never experienced,” he said.
Democrats were on track to win a majority of House seats Tuesday night while Republicans maintained their control of the Senate, but Cramer said there are opportunities for bipartisanship.
“If we have a divided government, it’s because the people trust a divided government,” he said.
Appearing before supporters at a West Fargo hotel, Heitkamp conceded the race to chants of “we love you, Heidi.”
“I went to Washington, D.C., not to rubber stamp any political party, not to make the easy decisions. I went to Washington to represent the people of North Dakota," she said, calling her one term as U.S. senator the “honor of a lifetime.”
The race was seen as crucial to Republicans’ hopes of maintaining or growing their slim majority in the Senate. Heitkamp was widely regarded as among the most endangered Democratic senators running for re-election this year.
In the lead up to Tuesday’s election, Heitkamp launched a 25-stop statewide bus tour that featured two potential 2020 presidential candidates: former Vice President Joe Biden and current New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. Trump campaigned twice for Cramer in Fargo earlier in the campaign.
Much of the race had been defined by issues like trade, health care and immigration. Heitkamp cast herself as a moderate voice willing to work with the other political party while painting Cramer as a partisan “yes” man for Trump.
Cramer, meanwhile, disputed Heitkamp’s moderate credentials by citing her vote against tax cuts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh while arguing Trump is more in line with the state’s voters. Trump carried North Dakota by almost 36 percentage points two years ago, and Tuesday was seen as the first major electoral test for his presidency.
Heitkamp easily outraised Cramer, raking in more than $27.6 million by mid-October compared to his $5.6 million. But Heitkamp consistently trailed Cramer in the polls, and her campaign made a major misstep by naming women as sexual assault or domestic violence victims without their permission in a newspaper ad.
Heitkamp was first elected to the Senate in 2012, defeating then-Congressman Rick Berg by fewer than 3,000 votes. She is a former state attorney general and tax commissioner who once ran unsuccessfully for governor before ascending to the Senate.
Cramer was elected to the House in 2012 after unsuccessfully seeking that post three times. He previously regulated utilities on the North Dakota Public Service Commission and served in Gov. Ed Schafer’s Cabinet as state tourism director and later the economic development and finance director.
Senators are elected to six-year terms and are paid $174,000 annually.
Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reporter Patrick Springer contributed to this report.