The North Dakota House backed legislation Tuesday that would require a special election to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy, a bill Democrats have panned as an attempt to dissuade U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp from running for governor in 2016. Representatives voted 67-25 to pass House Bill 1181 after debate over whether the same special-election process applies to U.S. House vacancies. The bill would require the governor to call a special election within 95 days of when a Senate vacancy occurs, unless the vacancy occurs within 95 days of the end of the Senate term, in which case the seat would be filled in the next regular election.
Current state law allows the governor to appoint someone until the seat can be filled in the next regular election, which would allow Heitkamp to pick her own replacement should she run for governor and win.
Heitkamp, a former North Dakota attorney general and tax commissioner who lost a bid for governor in 2000, hasn’t said whether she’s considering a run. A statement from her office Tuesday said she’s focused on her Senate work.