Trump supporters who are naturally suspicious of any cozying up to Democrats might want to take a step back and take a closer look at Trump’s next possible appointment from several angles before passing judgment.
One of the more interesting potential Trump cabinet picks is a Democrat from North Dakota. She is not a Democrat in the mold of Charles Schumer, for example.
So, who is Trump’s top pick for Agriculture Secretary? Senator Heidi Heitkamp.
Heitkamp, consistent with the wishes of her constituents in North Dakota, has broken with the Democratic leadership on some important issues such as gun control. This has given her the reputation of being something of a Conservative Democrat.
Recall that she also hails from a red state. This has two implications. First, she would have a tough re-election battle in 2018. Second, her appointment to Trump’s cabinet would likely flip her seat to the Republicans in the special election to replace her.
None of this is conclusive, of course, but it does deepen the understanding we have of Trump’s thought processes as he picks his team.
Examining this issue in greater depth, Politco points out that, “Sen. Heidi Heitkamp has emerged as President-elect Donald Trump’s leading choice for Agriculture secretary, sources close to the transition tell POLITICO.
“The first-term Democrat from North Dakota and member of the Senate Agriculture Committee has been a vocal advocate for farmers and broke from her party on several controversial policy issues, including the labeling of genetically modified foods and environmental protection for wetlands and waterways.”
As observed, Heitkamp is not your standard-issue liberal Democrat.
Emphasizing how serious of a contender for Agriculture secretary she is, Politco reports that, “Heitkamp, who met with the president-elect at Trump Tower on Dec. 2, is facing a tough race in a deep red state in 2018. In a further sign she is a strong contender for a Cabinet post, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell met with North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer on Tuesday about a potential open Senate seat. A source close to the transition said gaining another Republican Senate seat was on the list of reasons for picking Heitkamp. “
There is other evidence of Heitkamp’s willingness to stake out positions at variance with her party’s leadership:
“Heitkamp is one of the Senate’s more conservative Democrats and has been known to side with Republicans to please her North Dakota district. In 2015, she was one of only three Democrats who voted for a voluntary GMO bill labeling bill, written by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and backed by big agriculture groups, that would have preempted state laws.”
Her willingness to support pro-Second Amendment legislation as well as reigning in the the EPA are also encouraging:
“She was one of a handful of Democratic senators to co-sponsor a bill to require the EPA to revise its Waters of the United States rule, which defines which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act, after consulting with states, farmers and ranchers. She has also voted against Democratic gun control bills, citing deep opposition from her district.”
The point needs to be reiterated that Donald Trump is no fool. He has spent his entire career dealing with sharks, and that’s a skill that will come in very handy as president.
While he can and will make mistakes like anyone else, he is certainly not naive about the motivations of his opponents. If he can determine that Heitkamp will be a loyal and competent member of his cabinet, he can score several points with one move. And that is a sign of good leadership.