Heidi Heitkamp will keynote the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame dinner

Heads up, possible future presidential candidate spotters: U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota will speak at a major Democratic gathering in Des Moines on June 17. Alternating each summer between the capital city and Cedar Rapids, the Hall of Fame is typically the Iowa Democratic Party’s second-largest event of the year, after the to-be-renamed Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.

I enclose below today’s announcement from the Iowa Democratic Party and some background on Heitkamp, who was North Dakota’s attorney general before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012. Ticket sales (starting at $50) won’t be as brisk as for last summer’s event, which drew all five declared Democratic presidential candidates, but no doubt many activists will be interested to see Heitkamp in person. Her appearance may also draw some protesters, as she has been a “loud and proud” supporter of North Dakota’s oil extraction industry, and the proposed Dakota Access (Bakken) pipeline is a hot topic in this state’s environmental community.

This year’s Hall of Fame honorees include Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal in the elected official category, Iowa Federation of Labor President Ken Sagar as “outstanding supporter,” and State Representative Sharon Steckman for “oustanding leadership.” Scroll down to read the full list.

UPDATE: Should have mentioned that Heitkamp has the most conservative voting record in the Senate Democratic caucus, according to the Progressive Punch database. You can view ratings of votes on various types of issues here. Heitkamp has a “perfect” progressive record in only one category: fair taxation. As is common among Democrats representing tough states or districts, Heitkamp’s votes have become more conservative since Republicans gained a Senate majority (and therefore control over what comes to the floor).

Iowa Democratic Party press release, May 18:

Iowa Democratic Party Announces 2016 Hall of Fame Speaker and Honorees

DES MOINES – The Iowa Democratic Party today announced Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota as the speaker for their 2016 IDP Hall of Fame Celebration.

The Hall of Fame Celebration will take place on the evening of June 17, 2016 at the Iowa Events Center. Doors will open at 6:30 pm and the program will begin at 7:00 pm.

“The Iowa Democratic Party is excited to welcome Sen. Heidi Keitkamp to our Hall of Fame Celebration,” IDP Chair Dr. Andy McGuire said. “Sen. Heitkamp grew up knowing the value of hard work and perseverance. As a Senator, she has promoted an all-of-the-above energy agenda including renewable energies and championed a healthy initiative by battling big tobacco companies. She has a record and a reputation for getting things done especially FOR rural America. We’re thrilled to have her as our guest speaker.”

During the Hall of Fame celebration, the IDP will also honor several Iowa Democrats for their hard work, dedication and valuable contributions to the Iowa Democratic Party and their communities:

Outstanding Elected Official Award: Senator Mike Gronstal
Outstanding Supporter Award: Ken Sagar, Iowa Federation of Labor President
Outstanding Leadership Award: Rep. Sharon Steckman
Jim Lodwick Award for Outstanding State Central Committee Member: Jean Pardee, longest serving SCC member
Bob Creech Award for Outstanding Democratic Party Chair: Laura Hubka, Howard County Chair
Dixon Terry Award for Outstanding Democratic Party Activist: Randy Black, Chair of the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding Committee
Edward Campbell Rising Star Award: Blake Hanson

“The Iowa Democratic Party remains strong because of our outstanding local leaders, supporters, and activists across the state,” McGuire added. “We look forward to celebrating the exceptional contributions of dedicated Iowa Democrats who have strengthened our party and promoted our values of fairness and equal opportunity.”

Tickets for the Hall of Fame are now on sale and can be purchased here.

From the official biography on Heitkamp’s U.S. Senate website:

As a former director of the one-of-a-kind Dakota Gasification synfuels plant, Senator Heitkamp has a long record of serving as a champion for North Dakota’s energy jobs and industry. She is continuing those efforts in the Senate, working to responsibly harness North Dakota’s energy resources, promoting the state’s all-of-the-above energy plan which she believes should serve as a model for the entire country, and fighting to lift the 40-year old ban on exporting U.S. crude oil.

Senator Heitkamp sits on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, where she has been fighting for North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers, and to make sure they get the resources and support they need to continue to feed North Dakota, the country, and the world. Starting on day one in the Senate, she helped write, negotiate, and pass a long-term, comprehensive Farm Bill which Congress passed in 2014.

As a member on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Senator Heitkamp is continuing her pledge — from her time as North Dakota’s Attorney General — to stand up for Native American families and make sure the U.S. government lives up to its treaty and trust responsibilities. The first bill she introduced in the Senate would better protect Native children and make sure they have the economic and educational tools to thrive.

Through her leadership on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Senator Heitkamp has worked to reform the nation’s housing finance system, make housing more affordable, address North Dakota’s housing shortage, and provide relief to small financial institutions.

Senator Heitkamp also serves on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Senator Heitkamp previously served as North Dakota’s Attorney General, battling drug dealers, protecting senior citizens from scams, and working to keep sexual predators off streets and away from kids, even after their prison terms were up.

During her time as North Dakota’s Attorney General, Senator Heitkamp brokered an agreement between 46 states and the tobacco industry, which forced the tobacco industry to tell the truth about smoking and health. The settlement resulted in the award of about $336 million to North Dakota taxpayers to date. It was one of the largest civil settlements in U.S. history. When very little of this funding was being sent to anti-tobacco programs as intended, Senator Heitkamp led a successful ballot initiative in 2008 that mandated significant increases.

Previously, Senator Heitkamp served as North Dakota’s Tax Commissioner. Under her tenure, the State of North Dakota attempted to make catalog retailers collect the sales tax the state and municipalities were already owed on sales. The debate went all the way to the Supreme Court in the case Quill v. North Dakota.

Senator Heitkamp received a B.A. from the University of North Dakota and a law degree from Lewis and Clark Law School. She lives in Mandan, North Dakota with her husband, Dr. Darwin Lange, a family practitioner. They have two children, Ali and Nathan.

About the Author(s)



    Senator Hiedi Heitkamp is one of four Democrats who voted against Background Checks in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Shooting. Ignoring pleas from President Obama, Joe Biden and thousands of survivors and advocates for gun safety. In light of the Orlando massacre this invitation should be withdrawn.