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Grafton's Tom Campbell looks to unseat Heitkamp

Tom Campbell

North Dakota Sen. Tom Campbell, R-Grafton, announced Wednesday that he will seek a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2018.

Campbell made the announcement on social media. His entry into the race could lead him into a general election against Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who currently holds the seat, or a primary race with Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. Neither Heitkamp nor Cramer have announced their 2018 intentions yet.

Campbell was first elected to the state Senate in 2012. A farmer with a bachelor’s degree in economics from North Dakota State University, he is married with two children.

Campbell described himself as a “conservative outsider” who would focus on fewer regulations and less government. He supports a constitutional balanced budget amendment and 12-year term limits on members of Congress and opposes some of Heitkamp’s recent decisions -- such as her support for the Affordable Care Act and her vote to retain a key methane flaring rule.

He said that, as a senator, he would work as an ally of President Donald Trump.

“I think time is of the essence right now,” Campbell said of his announcement, noting as well Heitkamp’s growing campaign war chest. “In lots of other states, people are throwing their hats into the race. … Now is as good a time any.”

Also running for the seat is Democrat Dustin Peyer, a Driscoll-area wildlands firefighter who launched his campaign in April. Peyer supports “Medicaid for all” and has broadly criticized the influence large donors and corporations wield on politics.

Speaking Wednesday, Heitkamp said she’s still weighing the big commitment that comes with a Senate campaign.

“I think it’s always good when people want to take that opportunity to serve the public,” Heitkamp said of Campbell’s announcement. “Obviously I believe that over the last five-plus years we’ve proven that we really care about what happens in this state, and that when we go to Washington, D.C., we’re not there to rep anyone but the people of North Dakota.”

The lone House seat

Cramer said on Wednesday that he also hasn’t decided what his 2018 plans are yet. He’s been considered as a contender both for re-election and the Senate seat.

“I encouraged Tom this morning -- don’t wait for me, because I’m not going to wait for anybody else,” Cramer said. “I said, ‘Tom, great, get after it.’ Frankly, I believe early candidates are good for the party. I think multiple candidates are good for the party.”

The race for Cramer’s seat gained another contender Wednesday too, with former Fargo state representative and Democrat Ben Hanson announcing his intention to seek the state’s at-large House seat.

“I’m running because I believe that North Dakota deserves a congressman who will focus on the needs of hard-working North Dakotans -- creating good-paying jobs for working families, strengthening the middle class and building an economy that works for everyone,” Hanson said in his announcement. “Over the course of my campaign, I will focus on boosting job growth and jump-starting our economy by investing in small businesses, an all-of-the-above energy strategy and rebuilding our infrastructure.”

Sam Easter

Sam Easter is a City Government reporter for the Grand Forks Herald. You can reach him with story tips, comments and ideas at 701-330-3441.

(701) 780-1108