Former GOP candidate says Cramer running in ND Senate race

Former GOP candidate says Cramer running in ND Senate race
© Greg Nash

Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerOvernight Health Care: Supreme Court nomination reignites abortion fight in states | Trump urges Sessions to sue opioid makers | FDA approves first generic version of EpiPen Vulnerable Dem Sen. Heitkamp hits opponent on ObamaCare repeal votes Overnight Energy: Trump Cabinet officials head west | Zinke says California fires are not 'a debate about climate change' | Perry tours North Dakota coal mine | EPA chief meets industry leaders in Iowa to discuss ethanol mandate MORE (R-N.D.) will challenge Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Health Care: Supreme Court nomination reignites abortion fight in states | Trump urges Sessions to sue opioid makers | FDA approves first generic version of EpiPen Judge rules against Trump attempt to delay Obama water rule Vulnerable Dem Sen. Heitkamp hits opponent on ObamaCare repeal votes MORE (D-N.D.), according to a GOP candidate who announced on Tuesday that he’s dropping out of the North Dakota Senate race.

Gary Emineth, a former state GOP party chairman, sent an email to supporters that he’s withdrawing from the Senate race, citing Cramer’s entry.

But Cramer, who passed on a high-profile Senate bid last month, has yet to officially announce his plans. He told a regional news service Friday that he’s “mildly reconsidering” the race, amid reports that GOP leaders are urging him to take on Heitkamp.

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“While Congressman Cramer was my first choice to take on Heidi Heitkamp at the outset, I have to admit I had warmed up to the idea of taking her on myself. The timing seemed right if not serendipitous; I was ready to go,” Emineth wrote in Tuesday's email, which he also posted on Twitter.

“However, given [Cramer’s] decision to enter the race, I find myself unwilling to take on a popular incumbent who has done much to endear himself to his constituents. Cramer's accessibility and service on behalf of the people of North Dakota are exemplary.”

Cramer, who was viewed as a top recruit to take on Heitkamp, decided against a Senate run in mid-January and opted instead to run for reelection to the state’s at-large congressional seat.

His decision was a big blow for Republicans who are eager to take out Heitkamp, who’s running for reelection in a state President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL players stand in tunnel during anthem, extending protests 12 former top intel officials blast Trump's move to revoke Brennan's security clearance NYT: Omarosa believed to have as many as 200 tapes MORE won by about 36 points in 2016. Trump was also personally lobbying Cramer to run for Senate.

With Emineth’s exit, Tom Campbell is currently the only Republican in the race.

Republican leaders have been privately pressuring Cramer to run since North Dakota is a top battleground state for the party. If Cramer decides to jump in, Republicans are largely expected to rally around the congressman.

Senate Republicans hold a slim one-seat majority and they see Cramer as their best chance to flip North Dakota — one of the 10 states that Trump carried where a Democratic incumbent is up for reelection.