In a major reversal, Congressman Kevin Cramer (R-ND) has decided to challenge incumbent Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), according to Gary Emineth, a former state GOP party chairman and 2018 Senate candidate.
Emineth, whose controversial social media posts were exposed by CNN on Monday, announced that he dropped out of the race.
“Given [Cramer’s] 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 said in a statement via Twitter. “Cramer’s accessibility and service on behalf of the people of North Dakota are exemplary.”
Cramer, who himself is a former GOP chairman, was elected to Congress in 2012. In that election, he was endorsed by both FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth. He won three statewide elections by double digits.
President Donald Trump, who personally lobbied Cramer to run, won North Dakota by 36 percentage points, 63%-27%. It was Trump’s fourth-best performing state in 2016.
Heitkamp, a former North Dakota Attorney General, won the seat in 2012 by defeating then-Congressman Rick Berg by a narrow 1-point margin. However, Berg was only a one-term Rep. and Obama lost the state that year by only 20 points.