Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple announced Monday that he would not seek a second full term in 2016. Speculation on his replacement has focused less on Republicans and more on one Democrat, U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. Heitkamp might be the only Democrat in the state who can make the open gubernatorial contest competitive. Heitkamp has long been interested in serving as the state’s chief executive. She ran for the office in 2000, but lost the race after being sidelined for several weeks before the election to undergo successful treatment for breast cancer. Heitkamp won an open Senate seat in 2012 with just over 50 percent of the vote even as GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried the state with 58 percent. While Heitkamp seems content enough in the Senate, she is one of the few remaining moderate Democrats, which has put her at odds with the leadership from time to time. Earlier this year, Heitkamp expressed some interest in the governorship, but said that she wouldn’t challenge Dalrymple. Now that the seat is open, leaders in both parties are awaiting her
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