Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota – a red state Democrat who had been an undecided vote – announced Thursday that she will oppose Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
North Dakota station and CNN affiliate WDAY first reported the decision by releasing an exclusive video clip of an interview with the senator where she says, “I will be voting no on Judge Kavanaugh.”
Heitkamp, who is up for re-election this fall in a state President Donald Trump won overwhelmingly in 2016, later released a statement announcing her opposition.
“After doing my due diligence and now that the record is apparently closed, I will vote against his confirmation,” she said.
The senator cited Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in the early 1980s, in her statement, saying, “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.”
She continued, “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. I’m in awe of their courage, too. Some of them reported their abuse at the time, but others said nothing until now. Survivors should be respected for having the strength to share what happened to them – even if a generation has since passed. They still feel the scars and suffer the trauma of abuse.”
Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegation leveled against him by Ford.
Heitkamp added, “There are many extremely qualified candidates to serve on the Court. I’m ready to work with the President to confirm a nominee who is suited for the honor and distinction of serving this lifetime appointment.”
Heitkamp has been viewed as a potential swing vote and one of the senators who could decide the fate of the nomination.
With a razor-thin majority in the upper chamber, Senate Republicans can afford to lose only one GOP vote if all Democrats vote against the nomination. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, another red state Democrat, has not yet said how he will vote. Neither have Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine or Jeff Flake of Arizona.
The North Dakota Republican Party quickly attacked Heitkamp for opposing the nomination, arguing the decision aligns the vulnerable senator with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
“Heidi Heitkamp just sided with liberals Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to obstruct President Trump and oppose the exceptionally qualified Judge Brett Kavanaugh,” said Jake Wilkins, a spokesman for the North Dakota GOP, in a statement, referring to the Democratic leaders of the Senate and House.