‘Centrist’ Sen. Heidi Heitkamp to Shift Left If Elected, Staffers Say

By Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.
October 24, 2018 Updated: October 24, 2018

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), if re-elected next month, will lean further left than she lets on, her staffers were recorded as saying by undercover reporters from Project Veritas Action.

“It’s election year for her. She’s being careful about [expletive] people off and, it’s funny, she said basically, like, after the election, if and when she gets re-elected, she’s going to be super liberal,” Jesse Overton, digital director for Heitkamp, said with a chuckle.

Heitkamp’s campaign website touts her cooperation with Republicans and her talking points are in many regards hardly distinguishable from those of President Donald Trump.

“When North Dakota farmers were hurt by burdensome regulations from Washington, Heidi had their backs and stood up to both the [Environmental Protection Agency] and her own party,” the site describes her position on agriculture, the state’s no. 1 industry.

Yet her staffers revealed her claimed alignment with Trump is a matter of political convenience, rather than conviction.

“If there’s a blue wave in November, I am sure that her voting record will shift a lot and will shift away from the President’s campaign,” her staff assistant, Prescott Robinson says in the video.

Until They Come Screaming

Robinson suggested Heitkamp may tweak her positions based on her mandate and test how much she can cross her voters before they protest.

“Maybe she wins by 20 points and she goes, ‘okay, I can be a little more progressive,’” he said. “And it also depends, if she starts supporting something and the calls come screaming in, maybe she goes back.”

Overton said Heitkamp talked about being “super liberal” jokingly, but that she indeed plans to shift further left, even at the cost of getting voted out after her term.

“She doesn’t want to run again,” he said, and later explained further, “she’s like, ‘the stuff that I’m being a little safe on now,’ she’d probably be a little more bolder about it.”

Heitkamp runs against Republican Kevin Cramer, the current sole House Representative of the state.

Cramer had a 16-point lead in the Oct. 12-19 Strategic Research Associates poll of likely voters.

‘What Wall?’

Robinson, who works at Heitkamp’s Washington office, said she’s “very centrist” herself, but all her staff he talked to were “actually fairly left-wing.”

“If the country moved further to the left, she would move to the left,“ he said. “Like, I think that if we had a Democratic Senate, she would vote for more policies that you see more Democrats support.”

All that, however, may not fly well in North Dakota, which Trump won with a 36-point margin. And Heitkamp’s campaign seems well aware of that.

When one of the undercover reporters asked about the border wall—a signature policy proposal of Trump’s, regional field director Lauren Dronen told him, “I would just say she supports effective border security that includes barriers in some places, but whatever folks on the ground think is effective.”

While voters may be left wondering how the Senator intends to vote on the issue, campaign staffer Hallie Skripak-Gordon was clear.

“Is Heidi yes on the wall or what?” the reporter asked.

“What wall?” she replied.

“The border wall. Trump’s border wall,” he clarified.

“Oh. No,” she replied.

The reporter also asked Heitkamp’s field organizer Sam Ahmann.

“So she’s going to vote against the wall?” he said.

“I would assume so,” she replied.

Obama Poster

One day, the reporter, who appeared embedded into Heitkamp’s campaign, noticed a picture of former President Barack Obama disappeared from the wall in the campaign office.

He asked why.

“It’s because the press was here,” Skripak-Gordon told him and further explained, ”We take it down when the press comes.”

She didn’t clearly explain why that was, but later said Obama was too liberal for the voters Heitkamp tries to attract.

Heitkamp’s and Cramer’s campaigns didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.