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Koch organization won't support GOP Senate candidate Cramer

The move in a key Senate race comes as the Koch network is seeking distance from President Trump's GOP.
Image: President Trump Holds Rally In Fargo, North Dakota
President Donald Trump, from left, looks on as Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Rep. Kevin Cramer, (R-ND) speaks to supporters during a campaign rally at Scheels Arena in Fargo, North Dakota on June 27, 2018.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The primary political arm of the conservative Koch network announced at a semiannual donor conference here Monday that the organization will not support North Dakota Republican Senate candidate Kevin Cramer this fall, saying that his record on issues like the farm bill, corporate welfare and government spending run counter to the network’s positions.

“We are raising the bar,” Tim Phillips, president of the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, told donors Monday morning. “If this were 2016 or ‘14, we would have likely just gone ahead and endorsed him, but we are raising the bar.”

"He’s inconsistent on these issues across the board," Phillips said of Cramer. "That makes it hard to support him. And he’s not leading on the issues where this country needs leadership the most right now.”

Cramer is trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in one of the Republican Party’s prime opportunities to pick up seats to protect its Senate majority this fall.

In a statement, Cramer said, "I respect the decision by the Koch Network to not engage in the North Dakota Senate race. As I have always said, I work for the people of North Dakota and will always vote with them in mind."

"My voting record may not be exactly what every national organization wants, but it is exactly what the majority of North Dakotans expect," Cramer added. "I look forward to working with the Koch organization on the things we agree on in the United State Senate.”

Americans for Prosperity thanked Heitkamp in a digital ad last month for supporting a rollback of regulations in the Dodd-Frank banking bill.

Responding to the move, Heitkamp spokesperson Julia Krieger said that “when it comes leading on the pocketbook issues North Dakotans care about — from strong trade markets to responsible spending and cutting red tape for North Dakota businesses — Heidi has always been consistent: North Dakota comes first."

The Koch organization, which expects to spend $300-$400 million on politics and policy priorities in the 2018 cycle, announced this weekend that it will no longer blindly support Republicans.

Cramer is not the only Republican candidate that the Koch network has yet to endorse. Of the 10 GOP-leaning states Democrats must defend, the organization has only engaged in four: Wisconsin, Missouri, Florida and Tennessee.

Missing from the list are Indiana, Montana, West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Also not on the list, 99 days before the elections, is Nevada where Republican Sen. Dean Heller is trying to keep his seat in a state that Hillary Clinton won.

The organization's patron, Charles Koch, told reporters Sunday that he “regrets” supporting some Republicans in the past who have not followed through on stated policy positions, adding that he would be willing to support Democrats if they fall in line with the Koch mission of a smaller government with fewer regulations.

They are particularly focused on candidates’ votes and positions on trade, immigration, spending and criminal justice reform.

Ali Vitali contributed.