Potential Trump Cabinet Pick Could Add To GOP Senate Majority

Donald Trump is reportedly considering North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp to be Secretary of Agriculture and, if she accepted the offer it would likely add to the Republican majority in the Senate:

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp has emerged as President-elect Donald Trump’s leading choice for Agriculture secretary, sources close to the transition tell POLITICO.

The first-term Democrat from North Dakota and member of the Senate Agriculture Committee has been a vocal advocate for farmers and broke from her party on several controversial policy issues, including the labeling of genetically modified foods and environmental protection for wetlands and waterways.

A special election to replace Heitkamp would almost certainly turn her seat over to a Republican, so the choice would give Trump a chance to appear conciliatory to Democrats, albeit with a lower-profile Cabinet role, while allowing the GOP to bolster its Senate majority.

Heitkamp’s office and Trump’s transition team did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Heitkamp, who met with the president-elect at Trump Tower on Dec. 2, is facing a tough race in a deep red state in 2018. In a further sign she is a strong contender for a Cabinet post, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell met with North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer on Tuesday about a potential open Senate seat. A source close to the transition said gaining another Republican Senate seat was on the list of reasons for picking Heitkamp.

It remains unclear if Heitkamp would accept the job. Democrats are hoping she’ll turn it down.

“I don’t think she’s going anywhere,” former North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, a Democrat, told POLITICO.

As it stands Heitkamp is considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats in 2018. Notwithstanding her narrow victory in 2012, North Dakota is one of the most Republican states in the Mountain West, and there are several Republicans who are reportedly eyeing a challenge against her should she stand for re-election. Additionally, and largely because of the politics of her state, Heitkamp is one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate and has often gone against her own caucus, especially on issues facing the agriculture industry. Those ties to agriculture and the vulnerability of her seat may be the reason why she takes Trump up on the offer if it’s made, especially since it could lead to a path to the Governor’s office, which she has unsuccessfully sought in the past.

If Heitkamp does take the job, then it’s likely she would be replaced by a Republican, thus giving the GOP a 53-47 seat majority.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    She would be a fool. And obviously she’d be done in electoral politics.

  2. Gustopher says:

    This is the first nomination that makes any sense.

    Carson in HUD is just going to be an unmitigated disaster. Flynn has no redeeming value. Mr. Exxon is baffling. So many of the people are going to fail badly, and there is no payoff to any of it.

    Here though, is someone not obviously incompetent, and he likely shifts the senate a little. Well done, Mr. Trump.

  3. @michael reynolds:

    Not in North Dakota, where it’s hard enough being a Democrat and where being close to the agriculture industry is an absolutely must.

    Nationally? Perhaps you’re right. But when was the last time we had a national politician from the Dakotas who was a contender for anything?

    (The answer is George McGovern. And we know what happened to him.)