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Former defense secretary campaigns for Heitkamp in ND

BISMARCK - Hailing her as a politician willing to work across party lines, former U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel campaigned with Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in Bismarck Tuesday, Oct. 23.

Her challenger, Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer, meanwhile, touted an endorsement from a Medal of Honor recipient.

Hagel recalled Heitkamp being "clear" and "direct" during his confirmation process and said she makes tough decisions "in an informed way."

"I've watched how she has done this job for six years. I think it's the right way to do it," Hagel said after addressing about 100 people gathered at the Bismarck AMVETS club.

Heitkamp invoked her family's record of military service and argued veterans shouldn't be used as "political pawns" in a campaign, drawing a round of applause. She said she and Cramer both "believe in veteran service."

Hagel, a former Republican U.S. senator from Nebraska, was also scheduled to campaign for Heitkamp in New Town, Minot, Grand Forks, Portland, Fargo and Heitkamp's hometown of Mantador this week. The events come two weeks before Election Day, when voters will decide whether to give Heitkamp a second term over Cramer.

Hagel served in the Senate from 1997 to 2009, and he served as defense secretary under former President Barack Obama from 2013 to 2015. He is the only Vietnam veteran and the first enlisted combat veteran to serve as defense secretary, according to the Department of Defense.

Just before Hagel spoke in Bismarck, Cramer's campaign announced an endorsement from Medal of Honor recipient Clint Romesha. The Minot resident and Army veteran received the honor for his efforts during a 2009 Taliban attack in Afghanistan in which American soldiers were greatly outnumbered.

Romesha had been reluctant to endorse political candidates but cited Cramer's invitation to work on a veteran advisory board.

"Being in the military, one of the best leadership qualities that I had seen was leaders who understand they don't know everything about everything," Romesha said.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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