Several transition sources say Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota, is in the running for agriculture and energy secretary, but has recently been considered more heavily for the agriculture post. Donald Trump’s team is looking to add more women to the cabinet and enhance the prospects for a stronger Republican majority.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is also being considered for the agriculture post, sources said.
Heitkamp met with Trump on Dec. 1 in Trump Tower. She is up for re-election in 2018.
Trump carried the state with 64 percent of the vote and Republicans, looking to expand their 51-seat Senate majority (expected to grow to 52 seats after Saturday’s Louisiana Senate runoff election), would have a distinct advantage in an open-seat contest. North Dakota does not allow the governor to appoint the senator in case of a vacancy. A special election is required to fill the seat, one Republicans would also be favored to win.
Heitkamp won her Senate seat by less than 3,000 votes (0.92 percent) over Republican Rick Berg in 2012. A former state tax commissioner, Heitkamp is the second woman senator from North Dakota but the first to be elected. Her prominent committee assignments include agriculture, banking and homeland security.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, as CBS News has previously reported, remains the top pick for interior secretary and, according to two sources, is expected to be named to the post by week’s end. She has met with Vice President-elect Mike Pence and other top transition officials, including Donald Trump Jr. She also, sources said, has the support of leading GOP western state U.S. senators. McMorris Rodgers traveled to Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Nov. 20.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin was also a leading contender for the post but her prospects faded noticeably when Trump tapped Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. It was unlikely, sources said, two Oklahomans would land coveted cabinet positions.
McMorris Rodgers is the highest ranking woman in the House GOP leadership, serving as conference chair. She was also recently named a vice chair of the Trump transition. Unlike Fallin’s early and enthusiastic praise of Trump, McMorris Rodgers offered a muted endorsement in May.
“Mr. Trump certainly disrupted this unique campaign,” McMorris Rodgers wrote in a Facebook post on May 18. “Did I cast my ballot with enthusiasm? Not exactly - I’m still getting to know Mr. Trump like so many others. Do I have concerns about the comments he made in the past and on the campaign trail this year about women; people with disabilities; and those from different backgrounds? Absolutely - I vehemently disagree with such statements. They are wrong in a Presidential campaign; in our workplaces; in our homes; and anywhere else. I’ve called him out before, and I won’t be shy if he does it again because he owes it to our party and our country to treat everyone respectfully and to build an inclusive coalition.”