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Heidi Heitkamp, former North Dakota Attorney General, would be a great ally for Barack Obama if she wins this November.   I am a progressive, and I would love to have as many Sherrod Browns and Bernie Sanderses as I could get however the pragmatist in me knows that a centrist populist like Heitkamp is our best option in a state like North Dakota.  Her opponent is Rick Berg, a freshman Republican Congressman who had previously served in the North Dakota legislature.  Make no mistake about it, Congressman Berg is a Paul Ryan Republican who is as an extreme anti-choice Republican as Ryan is if not more.

There will be positions that Heitkamp takes that will drive us progressives up a wall like on energy.  Heitkamp's Energy plan is Republican-lite mixed with anti-Wall Street populism.  However, Heitkamp is pro-Obamacare (there are things about the ACA that she doesn't like such as the mandate) and would not be the type of pro-banker Senator that Kent Conrad is(Conrad was also one of the public option opponents).  

For examples of what we wouldn't like:

Increase Drilling and Domestic Production

As North Dakota has increasingly become a leader in energy production, our nation’s dependence on foreign sources of oil has decreased. We must continue to find new ways to grow and support the domestic production of oil, coal and natural gas. Supporting more production in the Bakken will help reduce our dependence on Mideast oil, and help create and retain jobs right here in North Dakota.
Heitkamp will also work to cut through the regulations that are harming our ability to produce more gasoline right here at home. We haven’t built a major refinery in the U.S. since the 1970′s — and the EPA itself says that the cost of complying with its own regulations led to the shutdown of 66 refineries since 1990.

Build the Keystone Pipeline

What we need now is greater investment in domestic energy development and production. That’s why Heitkamp supports projects like the Keystone pipeline — because they won’t just create jobs, they will decrease our dependence on Middle East oil.

As Senator, Heitkamp will fight alongside anyone who agrees that it’s time to move the Keystone pipeline forward – even if it means upsetting members of her own party. It’s time to put aside political games and partisan squabbles in Washington and do what’s right for North Dakotans, and what’s right for the country.

The problem is drilling more is that you don't really affect us keeping our domestic output.   It all goes on the world market, and it goes to whomever pays for it, and we'd just be lining oil companies pockets more.   Also there are environment hazards to off-shore drilling as the BP oil spill showed us.   Then there was that oil spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan that even the experts didn't know much about how to clean that up.   I suppose it does help keep North Dakotans empolyed as long as the boom continues.   As far as coal, there is no such thing as "clean coal" now and it's both a heavy polluter as far as air quality and it increases greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.   Natural gas carries its own risks especially when you use "fracking".

Again, Keystone pipeline does nothing to decrease dependence on foreign oil.   I suppose you'd have a temporary increase in construction jobs to build it.

Heitkamp also has this to say regarding energy policy:

End Reckless Speculation

Today, big Wall Street traders are the single largest investor in the oil futures market. They are making a quick buck on the backs of the rest of us every time we go to fill up our gas tanks. In fact, Forbes Magazine estimates that speculation is adding more than $23 to the price of a barrel of oil.

While it’s true that large airlines trade in oil futures to keep the cost of airline tickets low, that’s no reason to sit on our hands while big Wall Street traders drive up the cost of oil that they never take ownership of. We’re all paying the price for Washington’s refusal to tackle this problem. As Senator, I’ll work to crack down on the reckless speculation by Wall Street that drives up the cost of oil.

A Balanced Approach to our Energy Future

The simple fact is that coal and oil will be part of our energy mix for years to come. But alternative energy sources like wind and solar can also play a role in creating a reliable, balanced energy mix that reduces our dependence on foreign energy sources.

North Dakota leads the nation when it comes to potential development of wind energy. As Senator, I will work to protect and promote the growing wind energy industry, which supports thousands of North Dakota jobs.

Obviously, steps taken to minimize the effect of speculators on the price of oil is a step that I would support.  Oil prices ought to realistically reflect its supply and its demand and not be gambled with types that would feel at home in a casino.   Obviously, oil prices have an effect on our economy and I don't like the idea of speculators lining their pockets while they could potentially slow our economy.   Although there is a need to lessen our use of fossil fuels and become less car-dependent as a nation.

Heitkamp supporting wind and solar is a step in the right direction.   I doubt that Rick Berg would support anything than wasn't oil, gas or coal.

Rick Berg's biggest downside for us is his extreme anti-choice views on reproductive rights.  In fact, he's Todd Akin on steroids!   Berg once voted to give rape victims a life sentence in prison if they had an abortion.  Technically, it was a vote to mandate a life sentence in prison for any woman who has an abortion with no exceptions and that is certainly no less an outrage.   But in Bergworld, rapists get more rights than women, and it is rape victims who get the life sentences to go off a great Jennifer Granholm zinger at Mitt Romney.  Here's some of the bill text and explaination from Think Progress(emphasis Think Progress except where noted):

   A new section to chapter 12.1-16 of the North Dakota Century Code is created and enacted as follows:

    Intentional termination of human life – Preborn children. A person is guilty of a class AA felony if the person intentionally destroys or terminates the life of a preborn child. [Emphasis Think Progress] A person that knowingly administers to, prescribes for, procures for, or sells to any pregnant individual any medicine, drug, device, or other substance with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of a preborn child is guilty of a class AA felony. A person that intentionally or knowingly aids, abets, facilitates, solicits, or incites a person to intentionally destroy or terminate the life of a preborn child is guilt of a class C felony. For purposes of this section, “preborn child” includes a human being from the moment of fertilization until the moment of birth.

A class AA felony carries a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole in North Dakota. [emphasis mine] Chapter 12.1-16 of the North Dakota Century Code is the section of that state’s law that covers homicide crimes such as murder or manslaughter.

Think Progress notes that Berg denounced Akin's "legitimate rape" comment, but when Berg votes for a law more extreme than any law that Akin and Paul Ryan co-sponser, you have to wonder if he just found it "disgusting" that Akin didn't want to jail rape victims who have an abortion for life without parole.  

Heitkamp has not publicly made her views on choice known.   Since she is a populist, I will at least assume she has some pro-choice views like the majority of Americans.  

On tax policy, Heitkamp supports the Buffett rule and would increase taxes on those making more than a $1 million a year.  Berg wants to extend the Bush tax cuts and wants more tax cuts.

On healthcare, Heitkamp supports Obamacare in general.   In fact, this was what she said in an ad:

“I’m Heidi Heitkamp, and twelve years ago I beat breast cancer,” she says. “When you live through that, political attack ads seem silly.”

Heitkamp pushes back on the Crossroads line, saying “I would never vote to take away a senior’s health-care or limit anyone’s care.” She criticizes Obama’s law, saying it contains “good and bad” and “it needs to be fixed.” But she attacks Berg for voting to repeal it. 

“Rick Berg voted to go back to letting insurance companies deny coverage to kids,” she says. “Or for pre-existing conditions ... I don’t ever want to go back to those days.”

Heitkamp's biggest beef with Obamacare is the individual mandate, which as a populist in a red state, she essentially has to say that she would "fix" that.   I would say that Heitkamp would probably be receptive to a Medicare buy-in or maybe even Medicare-for-all given how popular Medicare is.  And also she was more enthusiastic for Obamacare itself in 2010 than now, so I don't think Heitkamp would push hard for getting rid of the mandate once elected.  Berg would of course repeal Obamacare and return us to denial of coverage and lifetime caps on health care.  

On Afghanistan, Heitkamp endorses withdrawal of our troops.  Berg would probably vote to keep troops in Afghanistan longer.   Heitkamp is also better than Berg on foreign policy:

As a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Heitkamp stands for sensible foreign policy and endorses withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan and the reset of U.S. relations with Russia. She supports ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the goal of securing and retrieving vulnerable nuclear-weapons usable materials worldwide within four years.
Heitkamp will likely buck Obama on some environmental issues and she'd support oil companies to protect North Dakotan interests, but she could still support us with voting for some progressive legislation.   Heitkamp is still very popular in North Dakota, while Berg is not.  Council for a Livable World reminds us
Heitkamp is remembered more than two-to-one positively for her job as State Attorney General, and has high favorability ratings. As attorney general, she was a leader in the national settlement with the tobacco companies that required them to pay restitution to the states.

By contrast, a poll by Democratic pollster Mark Mellman in November found that the personal and job performance ratings for Republican nominee Rick Berg are quite low. Mellman’s poll found Berg’s job performance was rated 28 percent positive to 56 percent negative and personal ratings were 42 percent favorable to 39 percent unfavorable.

Heitkamp winning in November means that Republicans have less of a chance to takeover the Senate.   And with a Maine win, and if we have wins in any of Nevada, Massachusetts, Indiana or Arizona; then we'd have a path to a much better Senate.  We should look into supporting Heidi Heitkamp because she stands between Rick Berg and the U.S Senate.

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