North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp lost her bid for reelection in the reliably red state on Tuesday, following a closely watched campaign that gained national attention after her vote against the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
The victory for Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer, North Dakota’s only Congressman, was key to clinch GOP control of the Senate. Meanwhile, Democrats are on track to take the U.S. House.
“Thank you North Dakota. Representing you in the United States Senate will be the honor of a lifetime,” Cramer tweeted Tuesday night.
In the final days of her campaign, Heitkamp touted her record as a centrist politician who has worked on bipartisan legislation, while Cramer pitched himself as a candidate closely aligned with President Donald Trump and his agenda.
But Heitkamp — who was elected to the Senate in 2012 with an upset victory — faced tough political challenges as she campaigned for reelection.
“I think that Cramer’s a better candidate than [2012 Republican Senate nominee] Rick Berg was, and Heitkamp does have a federal voting record now, which makes it harder for her to run as an outsider candidate,” Kyle Kondik — managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, which has predicted a Cramer victory — told TIME on Monday. “And it may also be that North Dakota has just become more Republican since that time.”
Trump, who twice visited North Dakota to support Cramer, is popular in the state, which voted for him by a 36-point margin in 2016. And Cramer’s lead widened after Heitkamp voted against the confirmation of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, who faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct — a decision she tied to her late mother, who was sexually assaulted as a teenager.
Cramer criticized the #MeToo movement as a “movement towards victimization.”
“Do I have work that I wanna continue to do? Absolutely,” Heitkamp told 60 Minutes after the vote. “Do I wanna compromise my principles and my conscience for that job? No. And do I wanna compromise the Supreme Court for that job? No.”
Republicans criticized her decision, though it earned her a $12.5-million windfall from supporters around the country. He campaign also made what Heitkamp described as a “very flagrant error” when it a newspaper ad aimed at Cramer misidentified victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
But Heitkamp dismissed her long odds of victory until the end.
“The doctors said I had a 28% chance of surviving 10 years when I was diagnosed with breast cancer 18 years ago,” she tweeted Tuesday morning. “I haven’t spent a moment worrying about odds since. Yesterday, I was honored to receive a pink sheriff’s star from Grand Forks Sheriff Bob Rost. Now get out & vote!”
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