MINOT, N.D.―Democrat Heidi Heitkamp has won North Dakota’s open Senate seat after Rep. Rick Berg conceded the race, reports the Associated Press. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Heitkamp was ahead 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent.
Heitkamp, a former state attorney general, is among the 20 female senators elected to the U.S. Senate who, in their win, helped usher a historical record in the number of elected women into the halls of Congress. Heitkamp’s win brings Democratic control of the U.S. Senate to 53 seats in which Republicans will have 45 seats.
“Just got off the phone with Rep. Berg. I thanked him for his service and for being a part of our great democratic process,” said Heitkamp on her Facebook page. “I know a lot of people on both sides of the aisle worked very hard in this election. I am so grateful for the people who gave me their votes and this victory.”
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Former President Bill Clinton came to North Dakota to stump for Heitkamp on Monday night. He praised her as the “commonsense bipartisan” choice for the seat and noted that she had once sued his administration when serving as attorney general.
Previously, Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad, the chairman of the Budget Committee, used to holds the senate seat for North Dakota, which means Heitkamp’s victory will keep the seat in the Democratic column. According to pollsters and political critics, her win in the bright-red state that Mitt Romney easily carried came as a surprise.
A director of Dakota Gasificaton, a manufacturer of synthetic natural gas from coal, Heitkamp is no stranger to politics.
Once an attorney with the Environmental Protection Agency, she was elected North Dakota Tax Commissioner in 1986 and then state attorney general in 1992, according to the press release provided in her personal website. As the state’s chief law officer, she secured a substantial monetary settlement for North Dakotans in the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.
In 2000, she ran an aggressive campaign for governor, during which she retreated briefly while undergoing breast cancer surgery.
As a cancer survivor, Heitkamp offers support for women fighting the disease. She recently suggested that her opponent would do women a disservice by voting against President Barack Obama’s healthcare plan.
Heitkamp, despite being a Democratic candidate and liberal, however, openly sought to distance herself from President Barack Obama over issues such as the Keystone XL oil pipeline and his energy policy.