Trump advisers unhappy with speculation on Heitkamp as ag secretary speculation
FARGO, N.D. -- Members of a Donald Trump Agricultural Advisory Committee are telling Republican leaders to end speculation about naming Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., as a U.S. agriculture secretary nominee and to stick with qualified Republicans w...
FARGO, N.D. -- Members of a Donald Trump Agricultural Advisory Committee are telling Republican leaders to end speculation about naming Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., as a U.S. agriculture secretary nominee and to stick with qualified Republicans who supported the president-elect's candidacy.
North Dakota State Rep. Mike Brandenburg, R-Edgeley, says he is among members of the committee who are telling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to "quit playing politics with agriculture."
"Mitch McConnell is behind it, pushing Trump to do this," Brandenburg says, adding committee members from across the nation are calling the Majority Leader's office to tell them to cut it out. Brandenburg says he spoke to a McConnell aide who tried to brush it off, and "I told him, 'Don't play politics with me,'" Brandenburg says. McConnell is looking for a way to get Heitkamp out of the Senate, but there's no way she'd be "that stupid," to take the bait and leave herself open to being fired later, he says.
"It isn't going to work; it's just plain foolish," Brandenburg says. Other North Dakotans on the committee are Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.
Brandenburg says he's one of a group of Ag Advisory Committee members who are expressing their displeasure with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who met with Cramer on Dec. 9, and reportedly spoke about Heitkamp's Senate seat. She would have to run for re-election to a six-year term in 2018.
Heitkamp met with Trump on Dec. 2 for two hours and said the cabinet post wasn’t discussed.
South Dakota State Rep. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center, the only remaining member of the Trump Ag Advisory Committee, says he is reluctant to comment specifically on Heitkamp, a conservative Democrat. "I don't know much about her ag policies, but in general I was concerned by virtue of the fact that there's a number of people that I did have firsthand experience with - a number of people on that committee - that would be good choices."
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Gov. Dennis Daugaard were on the Advisory Committee until they urged him to withdraw from the election after videotapes were released in October, in which Trump made vulgar comments about women.
Rhoden says in addition to Heitkamp's meeting with Trump, there also was a meeting with Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and a former member of the House Agriculture Committee. Rhoden says this has led some to speculate whether Trump is looking for some gender balance in his cabinet.
In any case, the speculation about Heitkamp is "swimming upstream, ignoring the talent" in the Republican party. On the positive side, he said it's good to see that Trump is "looking in our direction" to fill the cabinet posts, meaning the Upper Great Plains.
Brandenburg says he's impressed with Charles Herbster of Falls City, Neb., a wealthy agribusiness man and cattle producer. Rhoden says he's impressed with Sid Miller of Stephenville, Texas, the state's elected Republican commissioner of agriculture.