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Sep 13, 6:17 PM EDT

North Dakota's Heitkamp says she'll seek second Senate term

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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- North Dakota's only Democratic statewide officeholder, U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, announced Wednesday that she'll seek a second term, touting herself as an independent-minded politician who gets things done in Washington.

"At the end of day the people of North Dakota want to send someone who uses their head and uses their heart and is willing to sit down and not make judgments and get a deal done," she said on her brother Joel Heitkamp's Fargo-based talk show on KFGO-AM.

A spokeswoman said Heitkamp was not available for interviews.

Heitkamp, 61, was widely expected to run. She has stockpiled $3 million for what's expected to be an expensive and hard-fought campaign to keep a Democratic seat in a strongly conservative state that Republicans think they can win. President Donald Trump carried the state by 36 points last year and remains popular.

Heitkamp has walked a careful path on policy, departing from Democrats' usual line on issues such as energy, and has maintained a respectful relationship with Trump. She appeared on stage with him during his visit last week to a Mandan oil refinery, and was among senators who dined with Trump Tuesday night to talk about his planned tax overhaul.

State Sen. Tom Campbell is the only candidate declared so far on the Republican side, but U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer is also weighing a run.

State Sen. Kelly Armstrong, who heads North Dakota's GOP party, said Heitkamp's announcement surprised no one.

"Whatever the opposite of surprised is, that's what I am," he said. "We fully expected Sen. Heitkamp to run. All you have to do is look at her financials."

Heitkamp ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2000. She lost to Republican and now-Sen. John Hoeven in a race that was interrupted late in the campaign when Heitkamp was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery six weeks before Election Day. Her cancer is in remission.

She passed up a rematch with Hoeven in 2010 for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan. Instead, she chose a 2012 run for North Dakota's other U.S. Senate seat as Democrat Kent Conrad retired, and narrowly beat freshman U.S. Rep. Rick Berg by about 3,000 votes.

Heitkamp also weighed a run for governor last year but did not.

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