Commentary: Heitkamp is finally going to talk to you rubes and all I can say is 'you're welcome'
This week my colleague Mike McFeely wrote a column in which he dismissed concerns about Sen. Heidi Heitkamp refusing to speak to a group conservative media folks like myself by arguing that talk radio isn't influential.
A startling admission from someone who does talk radio for a living, to be sure, but it's on-message for the Heitkamp campaign so I guess that's what matters.
In a recent article by my colleague John Hageman, one focusing on the role of talk radio shows like mine in North Dakota's Senate race, Heitkamp dismissed the medium suggesting she doesn't have time to do on-air interviews.
That despite her frequent appearances on her brother's Fargo-based show.
Perhaps McFeely should have checked his fax machine for updated talking points from the Heitkamp campaign, though, because that narrative has changed.
This week Heitkamp agreed to appear on my talk radio show.
As you readers know, I've spent the nearly six years of her first term in office attempting to interview Heitkamp or even get a response to an emailed question.
She's still not talking to me, and neither is her staff. My requests continue to go unanswered. But Fargo City Commissioner Tony Gehrig, my guest host while I take some vacation time around the holiday, asked for an interview with the senator and it was granted.
Heitkamp requested that we not allow calls during her interview, which means that while she's OK with expanding her horizons in terms of audience, she's still not going to subject herself to questioning from the rubes in my demographic.
My policy is that all guests on my show take calls, but since I'm a nice guy, I decided to give the senator a pass. Far be it for me to get in the way of progress. I'm not going to call in and ambush the senator on my own show either because, unlike many in this business, I'm a gentleman.
The point is that Heitkamp's approach to engaging with the public seems to be changing.
At least for the election year.
She appeared this week with my good friend Jay Thomas on his afternoon show, which airs after mine on WDAY 970 AM in the Fargo market, and she even took calls. The segment was a bit of a softball about how the senator is nice to veterans and puppies, but progress is progress.
As I write this, I'm getting messages from my audience telling me that Joel Heitkamp is advertising on social media an open phones segment with his sister.
Another startling development. My understanding is that the senator doesn't typically take calls during those frequent bouts of on-air nepotism.
Anyway, enjoy the slightly increased level of access to your senator, North Dakotans. I took a lot of abuse from Heitkamps's flaks and supporters for daring to criticize her avoidance of the public, including her brother ranting about my personal life on-air.
It's gratifying to be able to say, "You're welcome."
Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Follow him on Twitter at @RobPort