Heitkamp to vote 'no' on Kavanaugh

Democratic Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa 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 TrumpWHCA calls on Trump to denounce video depicting him shooting media outlets Video of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Trump hits Fox News's Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage MORE's first nominee. Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyWatchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D-Ind.) has announced his opposition to Kavanaugh, while Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by USAA — Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies Trump pushed for her ouster GOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe Fallout from Kavanaugh confirmation felt in Washington one year later 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 CramerWhite House officials stand by Syria withdrawal, sanctions delay amid bipartisan pushback Sunday shows — Officials rush to Trump's defense on Syria, sanctions GOP senator defends Trump's decision on Syria 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 CollinsFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria McConnell tightlipped as impeachment furor grows Congress set for showdown with Trump over Kurds MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMurkowski warns against rushing to conclusions on Trump impeachment GOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe Republicans show signs of discomfort in defense of Trump   MORE (Alaska) remain undeclared on their support or opposition to the nominee. Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeHow to survive an impeachment Are Senate Republicans certain that Trump can return to office? Jeff Flake calls Trump's language 'authoritarian' 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.