As native of North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp has served the state throughout her adult life. She earned a law degree from Lewis & Clark Law School in 1980; during this time she worked for two environmental groups, the Northwest Environment Defense Center and the Natural Resources Law Institute. Heitkamp was hired by the Environmental Protection Agency upon her graduation. The Senate race in 2012 was not her first, but rather her sixth, statewide campaign (Nocera, 2012). At the age of 28 Heitkamp ran her first, although unsuccessful, race for state auditor. Later she worked as an attorney at the Office of the North Dakota State Tax Commissioner and then replaced the Tax Commissioner upon his retirement. This position prepared her for her career as North Dakota’s attorney general, a title she held from 1992 to 2000. In 2000 she ran for governor but lost to Republican John Hoeven. She stepped back from politics after this gubernatorial loss and was faced with a diagnosis of breast cancer. She stayed out of politics until the 2012 senatorial election. Leading up to her political return in 2012, Heitkamp served as the director of the Dakota Gasification Company’s Great Plains Synfuels Plant; this experience in the energy sector proved to be essential in the 2012 election.
Republican Rick Berg, a long time member of the House of Representatives, put up a valiant fight in the 2012 Senatorial election. His pro-business mentality, along with his conservative dispositions on energy and government spending made him an ideal candidate for an overwhelmingly Republican state. Berg was certainly qualified for the position after serving as a state legislator for 26 years. In 2010 he managed to defeat longtime democratic representative Earl Pomeroy, who was North Dakota’s at-large representative since 1992. Once Senator Kent Conrad announced his plan to retire in 2012, Berg was touted as the top candidate for the open seat.