GOP Rep. Cramer plans Friday entrance into North Dakota Senate race

North Dakota’s Rep. Kevin Cramer is set to announce Friday that he will challenge Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in what’s likely to become a marquee match-up in this year’s battle for control of the Senate.

Cramer plans to make his announcement at 5:30 p.m. Central Time on Friday in Bismarck, a source familiar with his plans said. A Facebook event billing the Friday rally as his entry into the Senate race has already been set up, and the source confirmed that Facebook event’s authenticity.

Cramer’s entrance into the race comes a month after he had said he wouldn’t run — despite lobbying from President Donald Trump and other leading Republicans to enter the race.

Cramer said earlier this week that he was receiving a “snowball of encouragement” to change his mind.

His decision to run reverses a recruiting miss for Republicans, who feared their hopes of unseating a Democratic senator in a deep-red state — Trump won North Dakota in 2016 by 36 percentage points — were slipping away.

Cramer will enter a Republican primary against state Sen. Tom Campbell. But Cramer — as a statewide elected official in North Dakota, which has just one House seat — would bring a much higher profile to the race.

Democrats noted that a year ago, Republicans appeared to have soured on Cramer as a Senate recruit. Joshua Karp, a spokesman for the Democratic group American Bridge 21st Century, said that “anyone who says he’s a top recruit is either lying through their teeth or related to him.”

Speculation about Cramer’s plans has swirled all week after former state party chair Gary Emineth, who was also in the race, said he was dropping out because Cramer had reversed his January decision to pass on the race and would run after all.