Heidi Heitkamp was born in Mantador, N.D., and now lives in Mandan. She has six brothers and sisters, including Joel Heitkamp, a talk show host on Fargo's KFGO Radio and a former North Dakota Democratic state senator.
Heitkamp earned a bachelor's degree from the University of North Dakota in 1977 and a law degree from Lewis & Clark Law School in 1980. While in law school, Heitkamp worked for two affiliated environmental groups, the Northwest Environmental Defense Center and the Natural Resources Law Institute.
Heitkamp was an attorney for the Environmental Protection Agency for two years before she was hired as a North Dakota assistant attorney general, working for Republican Robert Wefald.
After making an unsuccessful run for state auditor, Heitkamp moved to the state Tax Department as an attorney in 1985. She was appointed as North Dakota's tax commissioner in December 1986 after the man she's seeking to replace in 2012, Kent Conrad, was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Heitkamp subsequently served for eight years as attorney general. In 2000, she lost a bid for governor to Republican John Hoeven. She has not held public office since.
Heitkamp and her husband, Darwin Lange, a family practice doctor, have two grown children.
Heidi Heitkamp, a former North Dakota tax commissioner and attorney general, was unchallenged in the 21012 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, her first statewide campaign in a dozen years.
Heitkamp is opposing Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Berg's attempt to put both of North Dakota's Senate seats in Republican hands after 26 years of Democratic control. Former Sen. Byron Dorgan left in 2010 — he was succeeded by Republican John Hoeven — and the state's second Democratic incumbent, Kent Conrad, plans to leave office at year's end after 26 years on the job.
Heitkamp's campaign has an independent flavor, and she has emphasized her differences with President Barack Obama, whom she says has not supported coal as a future energy source and has failed in delivering on his 2008 promises to unite the country.
Polls have shown her roughly even with Berg, an unsurprising result given her greater experience in statewide politics. Berg, who served more than two decades in the North Dakota House, ran his first statewide campaign less than two years ago, when he defeated incumbent Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy.
Heitkamp's Senate bid is the sixth statewide race of her career. Her first appearance on the North Dakota ballot came in 1984, when she lost to incumbent Republican Robert W. Peterson in a campaign for state auditor.
After the race, Heitkamp moved to the state Tax Department as an attorney in 1985. The tax commissioner was Conrad, who was elected to the Senate the following year.
Heitkamp ran for attorney general in 1992 when the incumbent, Democrat Nicholas Spaeth, stood down to make an unsuccessful run for governor. She was re-elected in 1996 with 64 percent of the vote.
Heitkamp sought the governorship in 2000, opposing Republican John Hoeven, a former president of the state-owned Bank of North Dakota. She was trailing Hoeven in a tight race when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2000.
Polls showed Heitkamp surging into the lead shortly after news of her diagnosis was made public, and she resumed her campaign less than two weeks after she underwent surgery to remove her right breast. However, Hoeven gradually regained the momentum, and won the governorship with 55 percent of the vote.
Heitkamp has not held public office since the election, although she has stayed involved in public issues.
She backed initiative campaigns to require the Legislature to spend a portion of the money from a lawsuit settlement against the nation's largest tobacco companies on anti-smoking efforts, and a constitutional amendment that blocks government-sanctioned property seizures for most private development projects.
She serves on the board of directors of Dakota Gasification Co., which operates a synthetic fuels plant in west-central North Dakota. She also works as an attorney and consultant.
Heitkamp was urged to run for the Senate two years ago after Dorgan announced he was standing down. She declined, and said at the time she was instead considering a race for governor, calling it "the absolute best job in the state of North Dakota" and "a job I've always wanted."
Conrad's decision to retire changed her mind.
"I think that things are desperately wrong in Washington, D.C.," Heitkamp said. "I think our Congress has lost touch with the people of this country, and that we need reasonable voices who will represent constituents, and not special interests."
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Heidi Heitkamp is not up for re-election in 2014.
(Last updated by The Associated Press on June 13, 2014.)