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Port: Heitkamps feel they’re entitled to power, and that’s exactly why they shouldn’t have it

MINOT, N.D. -- Believe it or not, the point of politics isn’t the campaigns. Those are supposed to be nothing more than the means by which we choose who gets to do the much more important job of governing.

Sadly, it can seem as though the whole governing thing is just something the politicians do during the campaign offseason.

Still, before we move on, there are some things left to be said about the election cycle we just went through here in North Dakota.

Something about the Heitkamps, specifically.

Smarting from his sister Heidi's loss on Election Day in the U.S. Senate race, a thoroughly nettled Joel Heitkamp published a screed on his radio station’s website blaming that loss on myself and my employers at Forum Communications Co.

He described me as a “pitbull” for the company, and whines that my employers didn’t “call off the dogs” during the election.

Set aside for a moment that Joel Heitkamp is behaving like a 3-year-old who just lost a game of Candyland and focus on the sense of entitlement on display.

It’s exactly why the Heitkamps and people like them, regardless of their political affiliations, should never be entrusted with power.

During the election, and really throughout her six-year term in office, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp worked very hard to avoid her critics.

When we critics would request comment or an interview or even so much as a press release we’d be rebuffed or ignored. When we would publish or broadcast content critical of the senator, she’d have her staff reach out to our editors or publishers or producers and try to bully them into calling us to heel.

That this political family, which has never been shy about going on the attack themselves, would think they’re somehow entitled to deference is astounding.

It’s arrogance of a sort not befitting anyone who aspires to public office.

I’ve received a lot of flak from some about my focus on Heitkamp this election cycle. I can tell you that the senator’s decision to avoid myself, and other critics, is a reason for that focus.

Politicians who try to silence critics, and avoid accountability, are deserving of critical attention.

Besides, it’s not like Heitkamp’s campaign didn’t give me plenty of opportunities. I wasn’t the one who decided to clumsily out sexual assault survivors in a print ad. I didn’t tell the Democrats to run an ad campaign trying to persuade hunters not to vote. I’m not the one who chose to accuse a decorated WWII veteran of “gutter politics” because he didn’t want his story used to further Heitkamp’s campaign.

The Heitkamps lost the election because they ran, very poorly, a campaign in pursuit of political agendas most North Dakotans simply don’t want.

That’s reality. The rest of us need not live in a fairytale land where the Heitkamps are the victims of some conspiracy against them.

Rob Port, founder of, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.