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SCHULTZ: Former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp narrowly
defeated Rick Berg by 3,000 votes. She won by less than one percent in a
state where most people voted for Mitt Romney. In fact, 59 percent of the
folks in North Dakota voted for Mitt Romney.
It will be interesting to see how new Senator-elect Heitkamp will represent her historically red state. We`ll ask her right now. Let`s turn to North Dakota Senator-elect Heidi Heitkamp. Heidi, congratulations on the big win. And I can tell you here on the east coast, everybody is saying, how in the world did a Democrat win in North Dakota?
So I`ve got to ask you, you know, the cultural issues, gays, guns, and God, the G-word. How did you cut through all of that and get a victory?
HEIDI HEITKAMP (D), SENATOR ELECT: I think the most important thing is to understand what North Dakotans really care about. They care about a farm bill. They care about energy policy. But, Ed, mainly they care about sending people who know how to get along and get things done.
It`s no different than anything you`ve been hearing all across the country. The American public is tired of the partisan bickering. They are tired of all of the back and forth. They want solutions to these problems. And that`s our job. And I think they thought I`d deliver the solutions.
SCHULTZ: OK, solution. Tax cuts -- would you go for getting rid of the Bush tax cuts and taxing the top two percent, just what the president said today? Could you go along with that?
HEITKAMP: You know, we`ve been talking a lot -- and you know me. I`ve spent a fair amount of my political life and my public life working in the tax area. My big concern is the difference between earned and unearned income. And I say this every time. I say, the Bobcat worker in North Dakota pays a higher tax rate than Paris Hilton, because she doesn`t earn her income. She just lets her money make her money.
And we need to figure out a way to equalize those rates. Maybe not make them identical, but to equalize them. Because this tax structure, when Mitt Romney pays 15 percent and the average American middle class family pays much higher, there is something wrong with the tax code. And that needs to be fixed.
SCHULTZ: What about going back to the old rates? Going back to the wealthiest Americans paying almost 40 percent? What about that?
HEITKAMP: I think that -- you know, you need to take a look at on what kind of income. To me, the discussion is more about rates. It`s about what do we apply those rates to and how do we equalize people who make a lot of money on capital gains versus people who go to work every day and help this economy grow.
SCHULTZ: You know, I was back home. I saw the commercials. President Obama`s not the most popular guy on the prairie. And they were really going after him on Obamacare. How did you get around that and get the victory? What did you say about Obamacare?
HEITKAMP: Well, as you know, I`m a breast cancer survivor. And so I simply sent a message that, you know, I`d never take away seniors` health care or anyone`s health care. There`s good and bad in the health care law. And we need to fix the bad parts and keep the good parts. And basically, a lot of people thought you should just run away from it. And I said, wait a minute, there`s some really good things in Obamacare. There`s some really good things about the health care law. There are some things that need to be fixed. Why can`t we just sit down and fix the bad and keep good and move on?
Health care is way too important to politicize it the way it`s been politicized for the last four years.
SCHULTZ: What advice would you give to the president right now, after today`s press conference, moving forward, trying to fight through the obstruction that we can anticipate from the Republicans, if it`s anything like the last session of Congress?
HEITKAMP: Well, I thought the president was right when he said, you know, what`s his mandate. His mandate is to help working class folks, is to help move this country forward and start getting some jobs and real economic development in our country, so that we can get people back to work.
And I think it so sounds like those are his priorities. Obviously, we have a lot of discussions forward on energy policy. And we --
SCHULTZ: I was going to ask you about that. What about energy policy? I know oil is huge in North Dakota, no doubt. What about the pipeline? Would you support it, the Keystone?
HEITKAMP: I`ve always supported the Keystone Pipeline. I think the president`s going to approve it. But that`s just one part of a good energy policy. The problem we have, Ed, is you have people on the right who say it's all about fossil fuels. And you have people on the left who say, it's all about renewables.
But if we were going to have energy independence and really grow our economy, we need to use both. And we need to figure out how we`re going to
transport that energy from smart grids, electrical smart grids, to pipelines, to rail, whatever it takes to get this economy back moving.
SCHULTZ: Heidi, you are an unspoiled person. And this is going to be a tough lift because of the litmus test that takes place in Washington from time to time. I hope you can cut through it all and do deals for the people of North Dakota and the country. It`s going to be interesting to see.
I have to ask you, if you were going to compare yourself to a senator, thinking alike, who would it be?
HEITKAMP: It would be Kent Conrad. That`s no mistake there. That`s no surprise to you. Kent and I have been friends a long time. He encouraged me to make this run. He cares about the deficit like no one cares about the deficit in this country. I intend to pick up that mantle and deal with the farm bill, deal with energy policy and help our state become successful.
SCHULTZ: Former tax commissioner, former attorney general, mom, survivor of cancer. You`ve got quite a resume. Heidi, good luck to you. Thank you.
HEITKAMP: Thanks, Ed.