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Published November 01, 2011, 08:55 PM

Politico: Heitkamp Finalizing Plans For Senate Run

FARGO – Is Democrat Heidi Heitkamp running for the U.S. Senate in 2012? The answer’s “yes,” according to the political grapevine buzzing from North Dakota to Capitol Hill.

By: Kristin M. Daum, Forum Communications

FARGO – Is Democrat Heidi Heitkamp running for the U.S. Senate in 2012?

The answer’s “yes,” according to the political grapevine buzzing from North Dakota to Capitol Hill.

Politico’s Dave Catanese reports today that Democratic sources in North Dakota have told him Heitkamp will indeed run and she’s aligning the pieces to announce her intentions this month.

From Politico:

Heitkamp has already enlisted Mark Mellman to conduct her polling and is in the process of assembling a campaign team, according to several Democrats who have heard details of her planning.

She and her brother — former state Sen. Joel Heitkamp — have been reaching out to fellow Democrats to alert them of her decision, say political hands in the Prairie State.

Tom Potter, a Grand Forks professor, who announced his own candidacy last week said in an interview Tuesday that Heitkamp called him in October to say she would run.

“She did call me awhile ago, sometime mid-last month, to say she planned to run,” Potter told POLITICO. “I was a little surprised. Our internal map always had Heidi running for governor.”

The influence of Sen. Kent Conrad, who is vacating the seat after four terms, weighed heavily on Heitkamp, according to sources.

Conrad privately made the case to Heitkamp that GOP Rep. Rick Berg is more vulnerable to defeat than Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who assumed office in 2010 after then-Gov. John Hoeven ascended to the Senate.

Conrad went on local television Monday night to build momentum for Heitkamp, encouraging her to run, even though the decision has already been made.

Naturally, the official word from the North Dakota Democratic-NPL this week is to defer any news of a forthcoming announcement to Heitkamp. And as is typical of Heitkamp herself, she’s keeping quiet.

Rumors first circulated in early October that Heitkamp had had a change of heart regarding a campaign for the U.S. Senate. She had considered a run for the Senate last year after former Sen. Byron Dorgan announced his retirement, but ultimately opted against a bid.

She said then that she didn’t desire to be a U.S. senator and that her “heart wasn’t in it” to seek that office. Her statement last spring left many believing she’d seek the Democrats’ nomination in the 2012 governor’s race.

If Heitkamp seeks the Dem-NPL endorsement next spring, she’d face off against Grand Forks pastor Tom Potter, who announced his own Senate campaign last week.

But since Democrats have been urging Heitkamp to launch another statewide race for years, she would arguably be the party’s strongest and most popular choice to face Rick Berg, the likely Republican nominee. (Berg faces his own challenge from perennial congressional candidate Duane Sand.)

Heitkamp, 55, hasn’t been on a ballot since she lost the 2000 gubernatorial race to now-Sen. John Hoeven. However, she’s remained politically active within the Dem-NPL and on various social issues. She served as North Dakota’s attorney general and tax commissioner throughout the 1990s.