U.S. Senate Seat Debate

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There have been rumors that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., may run for governor in the 2016 election. She has not commented on these rumors but it seems some lawmakers may be taking some precautions just in case.

Currently, if there's an open U.S Senate seat, the governor would appoint a replacement until the next election. But, some republicans want to change that to require a special election instead.

The House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on House bill 1181 started off just like any other, with the bill sponsor testifying why he believes the bill should be reccommended.

"The reason for this bill is very simple in my mind. Why would we not want the people of North Dakota to decide who their senator is should a vacancy occur. It's really that simple," said Rep. Roscoe Streyle, R-Minot.

What wasn't simple was the discussion. Democrats on the committee first questioned why this bill would specifically call for a special election for the U.S. Senate seat and not other elected offices. Such as tax commissioner, insurance commissioner and the public service commission, which have all had appointments by the governor in recent history.

"Rep. Streyle testified and you mentioned that we want the Senate to be close to the people and therefor that should be an election. These offices, while Rep. Streyle, mentioned, are administrative, are very close to the people; yet there hasn't been a movement to include these as forced elections," said Rep. Kris Wallman, D-Fargo.

"I would agree with Rep. Streyle in that these are more administrative in duty. The folks that we're talking about, the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, those are legislative positions not executive positions," said Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks.

Democrats tried to have their concerns addressed first with an amendment by Rep. Mary Schneider, D-Fargo, that would have required special elections for vacancies in local legislative seats.

"I rule the amendment out of order, so we will not take the amendment up," said Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, committee chairman .

Next, Wallman tried to add her amendment which would have required an election for vacancies in statewide offices. That amendment was heard by the committee but ultimately voted down.

Wallman and Schneider continued to try to address the bill but were repeatedly rebuffed by the committee chairman and he said there would be no more discussion.

The bill was voted on and was given a do pass recommendation by the committee. But some feel their voices were not heard.

"I was not expecting that. I think that most of the committee members would agree that debate on issues is important and we should be able to talk about issues of concern," said Schneider.

She added that she feels the bill was voted on too quickly and would have liked more time before voting.

We reached out to Heitkamp for comment on this story and she didn't have one.