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Who will be the next Ag Secretary?

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D- ND) may be the front runner to be President-elect Donald Trump's Agriculture secretary.

Appointing a cabinet is a daunting task for any newly elected president, and the selection process often wavers between first one and then another top candidate, almost for every cabinet appointment.

While no one knows for certain, insiders, journalists and pundits are speculating that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D- ND) may be the front runner to be President-elect Donald Trump's Agriculture secretary.

The latest to jump on the Heitkamp bandwagon is Politico, which published a report Saturday, Dec. 10, citing a source close to the Trump transition team. Heitkamp, who's in her first term, serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee and is considered to be one of the more conservative Democrats in the Upper Chamber. According to Politico, the President-elect may be favoring Heitkamp as a clear sign he is willing to work with Democrats across the aisle.

That move, some speculate, may signal an attempt to bolster Congressional support from Democrats after a number of Republicans have voiced opposition to some of Trump's cabinet selections and following an announcement by some senior Republicans indicating their support for an inquiry into potential Russian influence and involvement in the November election process.

Others have speculated that offering Heitkamp a cabinet appointment would almost surely mean a special election would be held to fill her vacated North Dakota Senate seat if she accepted and was subsequently confirmed for the appointment. Since North Dakota is a Republican stronghold, the GOP would almost be assured of picking up another Senate seat, strengthening their majority rule.

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Whether she would accept an offer to join Trump's cabinet is unclear and as of late Monday her office had not responded to a request for comment.

According to published reports, Politico says another sign that Heitkamp is under consideration for appointment is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell met with North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer Tuesday, Dec. 6, to talk about the possibility of an open Senate seat and a special election to fill it.

Heitkamp visited with the president-elect late last week and spent about an hour inside Trump Towers. But the North Dakota Senator said after the meeting that she and Trump discussed a number of issues including the Dakota Access oil pipeline and issues concerning keeping jobs in America.

As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Heitkamp has been a vocal supporter of farmers. As an elected Democrat from a traditionally strong Republican state, Heitkamp has walked a tightrope during her first term and has even voted with Republicans on several controversial issues including the labeling of GMO foods and environmental issues like wetland protection and waterways.

She was one of just a few Democratic senators that co-sponsored a bill to require the EPA to revise its Waters of the United States rule, a controversial move to define which waters are protected under EPA's Clean Water Act.

In her bid for her Senate seat, Heitkamp won a victory over Republican Rep. Rick Berg.  She replaced retiring four-term Democratic Senator Kent Conrad in that 2012 election, winning by less than 3,000 votes.

North Dakota voters were familiar with Heitkamp, a lawyer who for worked more than a decade as the director of the Dakota Gasification Company's Great Plains Synfuels Plant. She also served as North Dakota's attorney general from 1992 to 2000 and unsuccessfully made a bid to be the state's Governor in 2000, losing to John Hoeven, who is now North Dakota's senior senator.

Democrats are hopeful Heitkamp will remain in the Senate after their party failed to gain the additional seats they hoped to win in the last election. More challenging is that they stand to lose more seats to the GOP in 2018 Senate elections as a few of the seats Democrats currently hold are considered at risk.

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