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Former Republican Senator, Defense Secretary stumps for Heitkamp

A former Republican Senator and Secretary of Defense is traveling North Dakota in support of Senator Heidi Heitkamp's re-election campaign.

Chuck Hagel served as a Senator from the state of Nebraska from 1997 to 2009, and as Secretary of Defense from 2013 to 2015 under President Obama. Hagel has also been heavily involved in veterans issues for the last 50 years. He himself is a Vietnam veteran. Hagel says he sees the kind of work Heitkamp has done in the Senate, and he is happy to support her re-election bid.

"I've seen up close the tough choices she makes, the kind of priorities she puts on her job to represent the people of North Dakota. And she does a tremendous job. Courage, character, and judgment - she uses all those on behalf of the people she represents. I'm not here against anybody, but I'm here to help her because I know what kind of an effective senator she is, and I know in a time when our country is in trouble, when it's bitterly divided, we need more Heidi Heitkamps in our government."

Heitkamp says one negative ad against her campaign claims she doesn't support veterans - but that that claim is an outright lie. Heitkamp says she's worked on several veterans issues - including veterans access to health care, concerns around PTSD and suicide among veterans, career opportunities and housing needs among others. She says it's inappropriate for veterans to be used as pawns in political campaigns.

"There's a whole host of those issues, but the bottom line is - none of them should be partisan. None of these issues should depend on whether you have an R or a D behind your name. We should be working together. I hold regular roundtables with veterans because I can't assume what their challenges are, and every time I walk away from these roundtables I get a better sense of what we need to do, what efforts we need to redouble - whether it's letting veterans know where these services are, or whether its looking at these health challenges these returning vets have."

Hagel spoke in support of Heitkamp at an event at the Fargo Air Museum.

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