Heitkamp to vote 'no' on Kavanaugh

Democratic Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA MORE (N.D.) said on Thursday that she will oppose Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Heitkamp's decision, which she first announced to North Dakota TV station WDAY, comes less than a day after the FBI wrapped up its investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. 

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Heitkamp, who is running for reelection in a state won by Trump, said a public hearing where Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, his first accuser, testified raised questions about Kavanaugh's "current temperament, honesty, and impartiality" and has "furthered a national discussion about stopping sexual assault."

"Our actions right now are a poignant signal to young girls and women across our country. I will continue to stand up for them," Heitkamp said. 

Heitkamp pointed to her work as the attorney general for North Dakota implementing the Violence Against Women Act. She said that she also thought Ford "gave heartfelt, credible and persuasive testimony." 

"When I listened to Dr. Ford testify, I heard the voices of women I have known throughout my life who have similar stories of sexual assault and abuse. Countless North Dakotans and others close to me have since reached out and told me their stories of being raped or sexually assaulted – and expressed the same anguish and fear," she said.  

The decision marks a shift for Heitkamp, who was one of three Democrats to support Neil Gorsuch, President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE's first nominee. Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEx-Sen. Joe Donnelly endorses Biden Lobbying world 70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents MORE (D-Ind.) has announced his opposition to Kavanaugh, while Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Defense: Embattled Pentagon policy nominee withdraws, gets appointment to deputy policy job | Marines, sailor killed in California training accident identified | Governors call for extension of funding for Guard's coronavirus response House-passed spending bill would block Pebble Mine construction The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - At loggerheads, Congress, White House to let jobless payout lapse MORE (D-W.Va.) remains undecided.

Heitkamp, who is running for reelection in a state Trump handily won in 2016, has been tightlipped about her thinking on Kavanaugh, declining to speak with reporters on Wednesday or Thursday.

The decision comes as two recent polls have shown Heitkamp trailing in her reelection bid against Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: iBIO Chairman and CEO Thomas Isett says developing a safe vaccine is paramount; US surpasses 150,000 coronavirus deaths with roughy one death per minute McConnell tees up showdown on unemployment benefits Senate panel scraps confirmation hearing for controversial Pentagon nominee at last minute MORE (R-N.D.). A Fox News poll showed that 53 percent of likely voters in North Dakota back Cramer, while 41 percent support Heitkamp, who is considered among the most vulnerable Democrats up for reelection.

Cramer came under fire last month when he questioned whether the sexual assault allegations should “disqualify” Kavanaugh “even if it’s all true" because they happened decades go. 

Republicans likely don't need Heitkamp to ultimately get Kavanaugh confirmed. They have a 51-seat majority, meaning they can lose one GOP senator before they need help from Democrats.

GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsObama announces first wave of 2020 endorsements Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  On The Trail: The first signs of a post-Trump GOP MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann Murkowski300 green groups say Senate has 'moral duty' to reject Trump's public lands nominee Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  On The Money: Unemployment benefits to expire as coronavirus talks deadlock | Meadows, Pelosi trade criticism on stalled stimulus talks | Coronavirus recession hits Social Security, Medicare, highway funding MORE (Alaska) remain undeclared on their support or opposition to the nominee. Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE (R-Ariz.) previously said he would support Kavanaugh and is expected to be a yes vote absent an eleventh hour bombshell stemming from the FBI report.

—Updated at 3:05 p.m.