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Grafton senator eyes congressional run

File photo of Republican State Senator Tom Campbell in Bismarck, N.D. (Logan Werlinger/Grand Forks Herald)

North Dakota Sen. Tom Campbell, R-Grafton, is eyeing a seat in Congress, but what seat he will end up running for will depend on Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.

Campbell, a co-founder of Campbell Farms, said if Cramer earns a spot in President-elect Donald Trump's administration, he would run for the vacant House seat. Alternatively, if Cramer decides to run against Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in 2018, Campbell would run for the House in Cramer's spot. But if Cramer chooses to stay put and run for re-election two years from now, Campbell said he would run against Heitkamp, who hasn't yet made her 2018 plans known.

Campbell wouldn't run against Cramer, he said.

Campbell, who was first elected to the state Senate in 2012, is making his plans known just two weeks after the election, when Cramer won a third term in Congress. Cramer, a vocal supporter of Trump, has had his name batted around for a Cabinet position.

But Cramer said just a couple of days after the election that his priority was on being North Dakota's congressman. But if Trump offered him a position, Cramer said it would be a "tough call to make."

Similarly, he declined to reveal any 2018 plans.

"I'm still in my preferred position," Cramer said Tuesday. "Tom is clearly positioning in case something happens."

Campbell, meanwhile, said winning a congressional seat has been a longtime goal. His nearly four years in the North Dakota Legislature have provided enough experience to show him how government operates, but he hasn't been around long enough to be a "career politician," he said.

"My heart is telling me now is the time," he said.

Campbell explored a run for North Dakota governor last year, but he didn't jump in the race. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Fargo businessman Doug Burgum ran against each other in the Republican primary election, and Burgum ultimately won the governorship.

"I got more support than I thought, but I just didn't think I had enough to beat either one of those two," Campbell said. "I knew I'd be learning some skills and developing some relationships for down the road."

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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