| I'm now going to say a sentence I never thought I'd have to say: Let's round up everything that's happened so far in North Dakota today. The big news in the wake of Byron Dorgan's retirement announcement, of course, is perhaps also the least surprising: Republican Gov. John Hoeven wasted no time in throwing his name into the ring for the newly open seat:
Popular Gov. John Hoeven is letting his political allies know that he's preparing to run for the seat of retiring Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.)
North Dakota Republican Party Chairman Gary Emineth told POLITICO that he spoke with Hoeven's senior staff soon after learning of Dorgan's retirement, and they informed him that Hoeven is preparing to jump in the Senate race once he deals with family issues back home.
Hoeven apparently will formally disclose his intentions within "two weeks." Hoeven's quick entry would almost certainly work to exclude any other prominent North Dakota Republicans from considering the race.
Now, who's going to be running for the Democrats? If the Progressive Change Campaign Committee gets its way, it'll still be Dorgan. They've organized a letter-writing campaign of constituents asking Dorgan to reconsider and run again; they've already racked up more than 1,000 notes.
The highest Dem on the totem pole would seem to be the state's at-large Representative since 1992 (when Dorgan got promoted to the Senate), Earl Pomeroy. Pomeroy is officially noncommital right now, but reportedly has let his staff know that he'll be remaining in the House. That may be for the best, as Pomeroy would be an underdog against Hoeven and he'd place that House seat in jeopardy as well. Instead, much of the speculation about possible Dem candidates has turned to former AG Heidi Heitkamp, who in fact ran against Hoeven in his first gubernatorial race in 2000. She held him to a 55-45 margin in that race after being diagnosed with breast cancer in mid-campaign, although she's been out of politics since then. (She's currently a director at Dakota Gasification, a synethetic fuels company.) (UPDATE: A new CQ article confirms that Pomeroy won't run, and also mentions that in addition to the possibility of Heidi Heitkamp running, so too could her brother Joel Heitkamp, a former state Senator and now host of a popular local talk show.)
Speculation has also turned to perhaps the most famous North Dakotan: populist talk show host Ed Schultz, who has been fielding calls requesting that he run (including from the state House minority leader, Merle Boucher). Schultz said he's a "long way" from actively considering it, but didn't explicitly rule it out and did addresss Hoeven's potential vulnerability.
We'll have a clearer sense of this race next week, when R2K polls this race (assumedly with Pomeroy, Heitkamp, and Schultz matchups against Hoeven). R2K will also be tackling Colorado and Connecticut next week as well. (Discussion underway in BruinKid's diary.)
RaceTracker Wiki: ND-Sen