North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple announced Monday that he will not seek reelection in 2016, renewing speculation over whether first-term Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp will consider running for governor again, more than a decade-and-a-half after her first try.
In response to queries about the gubernatorial race, Heitkamp spokeswoman Abbie McDonough said, "Sen. Heitkamp is focused on her work to fight for North Dakotans in the U.S. Senate." Heitkamp's office also sent out a statement praising Dalrymple's service.
Speculation that Heitkamp could run for governor has swirled all year, as she has dodged questions while never ruling out a bid. Heitkamp ran for governor in 2000 but lost to Republican John Hoeven, now her colleague in the Senate.
Possible Republican candidates include Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley and state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.
Back in April, GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer predicted that Heitkamp would run for the seat if Dalrymple retired. North Dakota Republican Party chairman Kelly Armstrong told the Forum News Service on Monday "We've been preparing like she's going to get in the race until she says she's not going to get in the race." Earlier this year, state Republicans passed a law preventing future governors from making U.S. Senate appointments, with an eye toward keeping Heitkamp from being able to appoint her replacement if she ran and won.