The final U.S. Senate race debate between incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and challenger Congressman Kevin Cramer took place Friday, Oct. 26 at North Dakota State.
The debate addressed civility, solutions and sanctions to Saudi Arabia. The two also discussed immigration policies, the Affordable Care Act, Social Security, tariffs, man-made global warming and veterans’ issues.
The debate’s first question addressing civility stems from national political-driven rhetoric during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate hearings and violent attacks such as the 13 packages containing bombs sent by a Florida man to prominent Democrats and CNN last week. The question asked how, as a senator, they would help calm political tensions.
“I take my advice from a great American, Steve Scalise,” Heitkamp said. Scalise is a Republican legislator from Louisiana that was shot at during a congressional baseball practice in 2017 by a “democratic partisan,” Heitkamp said.
At a prayer breakfast Heitkamp attended after the shooting, Scalise spoke about the tragedy and “never once mentioned democratic politics,” Heitkamp said.
“There is only one man responsible for those actions, but we also must be held accountable for our words and have them reflect the goodness of America in how we conduct our business,” Heitkamp said.
“There is only one man responsible for those actions, but we also must be held accountable for our words and have them reflect the goodness of America in how we conduct our business.” – Heidi Heitkamp
Cramer responded to the question, agreeing with Heitkamp, and said, “What I say often in Washington D.C. is, ‘Let’s look at North Dakota as the example,’” Cramer said. “What we get to do tonight is celebrate opportunities like this that let us celebrate civility.”
One of the next topics addressed was immigration in America largely due to recent events regarding the immigration caravan heading toward the United States. This issue unveiled split views between Heitkamp and Cramer.
“There is always something over here that the people over here don’t like, and there is always something over here that the people over here don’t like when it comes to immigration, but I think this president has provided a pretty good blueprint in dealing with immigration,” Cramer said.
“But at the end of the day, we are a sovereign nation with rule of law and the most generous nation in the world when it comes to legal immigrants, and we ought to be able to have something to say when it comes to people coming into our country,” Cramer said.
“In 2013, we (U.S. Senate) passed comprehensive immigration reform with a broad bipartisan majority support,” Heitkamp said. “We were unable to get anything done over in the House of Representatives because (the bill) would have provided a long-term path to citizenship, which was something not acceptable to the House of Representatives, so this issue in a big way lingers.”
“It is time for leadership, and it’s time for bipartisan leadership to reignite this, but the one thing we know is that we cannot leave our borders unprotected,” Heitkamp said.
Another question asked to both candidates was about the recent tariffs enacted by President Trump. Earlier this year, President Trump placed tariffs on Chinese manufactured solar panels, washing machines, imported steel and aluminum with intentions to protect U.S. manufacturers. The Chinese responded by placing tariffs on soybeans and pork. This issue is dividing both candidates on whether or not it will have a long-term negative effect on North Dakota’s agricultural economy.
“There’s no argument; farmers are getting hurt and I’m going to fight, fight, fight for farmers,” Heitkamp said. “We are going to be short by about a billion dollars in our state revenue because not only do we have a tariff on our soybeans, but we can’t sell them potentially losing them forever.”
“Many of the farmers I’ve talked to have asked, ‘Why haven’t we done this sooner?’ because then we wouldn’t have had this dramatic situation.” – Kevin Cramer
“Many of the farmers I’ve talked to have asked, ‘Why haven’t we done this sooner?’ because then we wouldn’t have had this dramatic situation if previous presidents would have confronted China’s cheating,” Cramer said. “Eighty-eight percent of U.S exports go to Canada and Mexico in fact, China represents one percent of North Dakota’s exports,”
“As a U.S. senator, (if) you cannot stand at a podium and protect the good people of North Dakota against bad administration policies, then you (Cramer) don’t belong in the Senate,” Heitkamp said.
“You’re (Heitkamp) not standing with the good people of this state; you’re standing with Communist China,” Cramer said. “It makes it hard for the president to negotiate a good trade deal if people like you keep undermining it by running to the other side.”
One of the last issues they discussed was veterans’ issues.
“I don’t think Kevin and I disagree on how we respect and revere veterans,” Heitkamp said. “We’ve been at many, many joint events, but it’s not enough to walk the walk; it’s making sure we listen to them.”
“I’m glad that we finally have a president that wants to provide more services or our veterans,” Cramer said. “But it’s not just about our veterans. It’s about our active duty too. They’ve received the largest pay raise we’ve seen in the past five years,” Cramer said.
“I just want to compliment Cramer; he was one of the founders of the honor flights,” Heitkamp said. “Anyone who has seen an honor flight knows it’s a special moment.”
Honor flights fly veterans from North Dakota to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials dedicated to them and their service in the military. Over 1,200 veterans from North Dakota and Minnesota have experienced this honoring trip since 2007, according to Veteran’s Honor Flights of MN and ND.
“This (veterans issues) is and never will be a partisan issue,” Cramer said. “Some of the most fun Sen. Heitkamp and I have had was poking fun of each other on stage at some of these events.”