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Sen. Heidi Heitkamp announces she’ll vote against Brett Kavanaugh

The moderate Democrat from North Dakota has made up her mind.

Heidi Heitkamp
Heidi Heitkamp
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) has made up her mind on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination: She’ll vote no, she announced Thursday.

In a statement, Heitkamp said that Kavanaugh’s behavior at last Thursday’s Senate Judiciary hearing called into question his “temperament, honesty, and impartiality.” She praised Christine Blasey Ford for “coming forward,” cited her past work implementing the Violence Against Women Act as the state’s attorney general, and asserted that she’s “ready to work with the President” to confirm a different nominee.

Heitkamp was one of only two Senate Democrats who hadn’t already announced they’d oppose Kavanaugh. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is the other, and he has not yet announced his position.

But Republicans don’t need any Democrats to confirm Kavanaugh. All they need is to unite 50 of their own 51 senators. So all eyes are on the few remaining undecided Republicans: Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

The vote could have major ramifications for Heitkamp, who represents a state Donald Trump won by a 35-point margin. Polls already suggest Heitkamp is the most endangered Senate Democrat on the ballot next month — she’s consistently trailed her challenger, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R).

Cramer has gone further than many other Republicans in trying to minimize the allegations against Kavanaugh. He hasn’t just suggested Ford is misremembering — he’s said it wouldn’t matter so much even if it had happened.

“These are teenagers who evidently were drunk, according to her own statement. They were drunk,” he told a local radio show. “Nothing evidently happened in it all, even by her own accusation. Again, it was supposedly an attempt or something that never went anywhere.”

In a later interview, Cramer continued in this vein. “What if [there was] 36 years of a record where there’s nothing like that again, but instead there’s a record of a perfect gentleman, of an intellect, a stellar judge,” he said.

The two most recent polls of the race, conducted after these comments, both show Cramer ahead of Heitkamp by 10 points or more among likely voters.

On Thursday, Heitkamp’s brother told MSNBC: “She may lose. But in the morning, when she’s brushing her teeth, she needs to like the person she sees.”

Heitkamp herself made similar comments to WDAY News. “If this were a political decision for me. I certainly would be deciding the other way,” she said. “History will judge you but most importantly you will judge yourself.”

She added: “I can’t get up in the morning and look at the experience I’ve had and say yes to Judge Kavanaugh.”