Politics

Cramer Says Trump Wants Him to Enter North Dakota Senate Race

North Dakota congressman is considering a Senate run

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., is considering running for Senate. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Kevin Cramer said Wednesday that President Donald Trump phoned him Tuesday evening and encouraged him to run for Senate against Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

“He called largely to encourage me to strongly consider entering the U.S. Senate race in North Dakota,” Cramer said during an interview on KFYR’s “What’s On Your Mind With Scott Hennen.” American Bridge, a Democratic opposition research firm, captured the audio.

Cramer said he will not make a decision until after Republicans wrap up their effort to overhaul the tax system. They are hoping to pass tax legislation by the end of the year. The filing deadline is not until April 19, with a primary set for June 12.

State Sen. Tom Campbell is already in the race to challenge Heitkamp. Cramer has long been considering a run, but came under criticism for some controversial statements. He said former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s statement that Hitler did not use chemical weapons in World War II was “not without some validity.”

One GOP consultant who has worked on North Dakota races said recently that voters in the state recognize that Cramer, a constant presence on talk radio in the state, can sometimes say controversial things.

“From people I’ve talked to, they tend to feel like because he’s so accessible ... they can give him the benefit of the doubt,” the consultant said.

Cramer is a Trump supporter. He said Trump and his team have been pushing him to run for Senate.

“He was strongly, strongly encouraging me to enter the race,” Cramer said. “I told him that I didn’t want politics to get in the way of this tax reform package, that I’d be making a decision, most likely not prior to that, but after we get tax reform done.”

Cramer said he and Trump discussed the tax overhaul effort, and they agreed it would be key to Republicans’ electoral prospects in 2018.

“...If we don’t get tax reform done, I don’t know that it’s going to be a great Republican year. He agreed with me on that,” Cramer said. “We’ve got to get this done and that will set the table for hopefully a big Republican, a big election cycle. Because people will judge us on what we get done and what we don’t get done.”

Cramer said Trump had phoned him Tuesday evening while he was having dinner in the Capitol, and after a terrorist attack occurred in New York City. An attacker drove a truck into people on a bike path near the World Trade Center, killing eight and injuring a number of others.

“He talked about the situation in New York, asked me if I had seen what was going on,” Cramer said. 

Trump has encouraged other supporters to run for office, including GOP Rep. Lou Barletta, who is running for Senate in Pennsylvania.

Trump could play a role in the GOP primary, given that he is popular in the Peace Garden State. He won North Dakota by 36 points in 2016.

Other candidates have been considering running, including former Rep. Rick Berg, who lost to Heitkamp in 2012. Geologist Kathy Nesst and Tammy Miller, who runs an electric company, have also been named as potential Senate candidates. The Club for Growth PAC has also floated state treasurer Kelly Schmidt as a potential contender.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race a Toss-Up.

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