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Commentary: An Election Day post-mortem

Jim Shaw

Congratulations to North Dakota Senator-Elect Kevin Cramer…

He ran a strong campaign. Cramer won in large part because North Dakota is an overwhelmingly Republican state and President Donald Trump is popular here. Cramer and Trump’s mutual admiration was a winning strategy. The old routine of sending Democrats to Washington from this state has been buried. Democratic Senators Quentin Burdick, Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan could not be elected today. If Santa Claus ran for statewide office in North Dakota as a Democrat, even he couldn’t win.

Cramer is a friendly guy and very accessible. My main concern is his pledge of 100 percent loyalty to Trump. No member of Congress should ever make that pledge to any president. Senators need to be a check and balance on presidents, not rubber stamps. Cramer has shamefully called opposition to Trump’s policies un-American and compared it to infidelity. His first loyalty needs to be to the citizens of North Dakota he represents and to all Americans. I hope Cramer will have the integrity to oppose Trump when necessary.

Will he fight for North Dakota farmers and businesses against the unnecessary and damaging tariffs? Will he fight to make sure North Dakotans with pre-existing conditions continue to receive affordable health insurance? Will he speak out when the president says something divisive? Will he speak out when the president does something inhumane, such as separating children from their parents.

This is likely the end of the road for North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp in elective office. It’s been a very good run. As tax commissioner, she pursued catalog sales from retailers. As attorney general, she successfully went after the tobacco companies and drug dealers. She lost her race for governor, but showed great courage in campaigning while she was battling breast cancer. Her several accomplishments in the Senate include cracking down on human trafficking and lifting the ban on oil exports.

Heitkamp performed a difficult balancing act in voting the way her constituents want and voting her conscience. So, she ticked off Democrats with her votes on energy and gun control. She ticked off Republicans with her votes against tax cuts and Brett Kavanaugh. Some say the Kavanaugh vote cost her the election. I doubt it. She would have lost anyway. However, if that’s true, and she voted her conscience over what’s best for her re-election, that’s very impressive. We need more of that in Washington.

President Trump or his successor would be wise to tap Heitkamp as secretary of agriculture, energy secretary or attorney general. Meantime, in defeat Heitkamp left the stage with class and intelligence.

Congrats to old friend and television news colleague Austen Schauer for his election to the North Dakota House. Schauer, a Republican, is articulate, poised and passionate. Republicans would be smart to make good use of him.

Gotta run now. The invasion is coming and I need to lock my doors.

Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director. He can be heard Fridays, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., on 970 WDAY AM radio. Email jimshawtv@gmail.com

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