There is one teensy problem with playing on a bipartisan congressional athletic team: Sometimes politics comes first.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat and star slugger for the Congressional Women’s Softball team, is set to campaign in West Virginia this weekend on behalf of Democratic Senate candidate Natalie Tennant.
An innocuous political move, except that Tennant’s opponent is one of Team Congress’ captains, Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito.
The pair play on a team of female members who battle the women of the Washington press corps in the annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game .
Heitkamp weighed in on the issue in an exclusive interview with CQ Roll Call’s Kyle Trygstad.
“I know Shelley, I’ve played softball with her, she’s a very good softball player — and she’s a lovely person as well,” Heitkamp said. “It will be a choice that the people of West Virginia will make. I think the person who can make the most compelling case about how they can represent their state in ways that really reflect the values and the interests of your state, that’s the person who is going to win, regardless of party label.”
The tug between politics and team spirit is nothing new.
Back in 2012, Team Captain Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., campaigned for Heitkamp’s Senate opponent. Heitkamp had yet to join the team but showed early promise in a television ad shot at a local batting cage.
And last spring, a potential member-vs.-member North Carolina Senate race brewing between Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers created angst within the team.
But Capito, also known as “The Brick Wall” of third base, took it all in stride.
“The Congressional Women’s Softball Game sets partisanship aside for two goals: victory and raising money for deserving charities,” she said in a statement.
And, for what it’s worth, Capito looked pretty fierce taking grounders at the team’s first practice of the season Thursday morning.
Disclosure: The author of this post is a co-captain of the Bad News Babes, the press team.