Politics

Cramer Reverses Course, Reconsiders North Dakota Senate Run

GOP lawmaker expects to make a decision over the weekend

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., is reconsidering running for Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer is reconsidering running for Senate in North Dakota, despite previously saying he would run for re-election to the House. Cramer said he expects to make a final decision by the end of the weekend.

Cramer said Tuesday night that he had received encouragement from people in D.C. and in North Dakota to reconsider his decision not to run. He did not directly answer a question as to whether President Donald Trump was personally encouraging him to challenge Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

“There’s a lot of people from here to home, and frankly the people back in North Dakota, their encouragement matters more to me. Obviously they have a greater stake in it,” Cramer told Roll Call and ABC News as he walked to the House floor. “So again we’re respecting their desire for us to take another look at it. Like I said I’ll be home Friday, that will be a good time for me to finalize any plans.”

“I would expect to have a decision by the end of the weekend,” Cramer said.

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Two sources with knowledge of Cramer’s plans said they believe he will ultimately challenge Heitkamp, one of the more vulnerable incumbents up for re-election in 2018. Trump won North Dakota by 36 points in 2016. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the North Dakota Senate race a Tossup.

Cramer said last month that he decided he did not want to run for Senate, since a Senate campaign would mean less time with his family. Cramer, a Trump ally, had previously been pressured by the president to run for Senate.

“I was very set,” Cramer said when asked about his previous decision. “One of the things that surprised me about being set was that didn’t slow down people wanting me to do it. It seemed to escalate their encouragement. But I really — I’m not going to make that decision here. I’ll wait until I get home.”

Cramer’s decision caused some Republicans to be concerned about their prospects for unseating Heitkamp, who was first elected to the Senate in 2012.

GOP state Sen. Tom Campbell was already in the race. But the Washington Examiner reported Tuesday that Republican officials were concerned about internal opposition research on Campbell, which revealed bank foreclosures and a lawsuit relating to life insurance fraud.

Cramer told reporters later on Tuesday that he had recently spoken with Campbell at a GOP event in North Dakota over the weekend. Asked if Campbell would run for the at-large House seat should Cramer run for the Senate, Cramer said, “He has said that publicly, pretty regularly, to reporters.”

After Cramer announced his decision not to run last month, former North Dakota GOP Chairman Gary Emineth announced he would run. But CNN uncovered a number of questionable social media posts, including retweeting an image that said there should not be any more mosques in America.

Emineth announced in an email Tuesday afternoon that he would drop out of the race because Cramer was running.

“[G]iven his decision to enter the race, I find myself unwilling to take on a popular incumbent who has done much to endear himself to his constituents,” Emineth wrote. “Cramer’s accessibility and service on behalf of the people of North Dakota are exemplary.”

Cramer suggested Emineth was not exactly correct in writing that Cramer definitely decided he would run for Senate.

“He’s making some presumptions,” Cramer said. Cramer later added that Emineth may have been trying to exit the race, following news coverage questioning Emineth's strength as a candidate.

“I think he was a little bit hurt by the reference to him not being viable in the Examiner story today,” Cramer said. “...Maybe he was looking for a graceful way, a reason to get out of the race.”

Cramer was confident he would be a strong challenger to Heitkamp, though he acknowledged the race would be a difficult one.

“I think it is fairly conventional knowledge about me here, the best foot forward for North Dakota is for me to run. So I do weigh that. I’m a patriotic North Dakotan and a patriotic Republican,” Cramer said, describing encouragement from others that he should run. “...I’m having a hard time arguing with them.”

But Cramer indicated he has not made a final decision, and said he was still weighing how running would affect his family, and what it would mean for North Dakota to lose some of his seniority as the state's only representative in the House. Cramer was first elected in 2012.

“I don’t make those decisions here,” Cramer said, referring to the nation’s capital. “I’m going to get home Friday, sit down with my family. We’ll know a lot more then.”

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