Minnesotan nominated to be ambassador to Norway


The second time is the charm, it appears, for filling the vacant U.S. ambassadorship to Norway.

President Obama has nominated Minnesotan Sam Heins to represent American interests in that country, months after his first choice failed to pass muster with many Minnesotans of Norwegian descent.

Heins is a senior partner in a Minneapolis law firm as well as a human rights advocate. The Star Tribune notes he was a founder of the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights and the Center for Victims of Torture, where he serves on its board of directors.

As MPR News notes, Heins and his wife Stacey Mills are also major donors and "bundlers" who raised more than $1 million for President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign.

Heins also has the advantage of being from Minnesota – he earned his undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Minnesota – since the state is home to more people of Norwegian heritage than any other place except Norway itself.

The president's previous nominee for the ambassadorship, George Tsunis, is a New Yorker. Tsunis – who was also a major Obama fundraiser – drew unanimous scorn from the entire Minnesota congressional delegation when he acknowledged that he'd never been to Norway. And he also badly flubbed even basic questions about the country during his confirmation hearing last year.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar was one of the most vocal opponents of Tsunis. But she said in a statement Wednesday that she's happy with Obama's choice of Heins, according to MPR News.

“It is only fitting that the nominee to be the United States ambassador to Norway hails from our state,” Klobuchar said. “An incredibly smart attorney with an extensive background in human rights, I have no doubt that Sam Heins will be a great fit for this position.”

Heins’ appointment must be approved by the U.S. Senate.

Minnesota continues to have strong ties with Norway. An honorary consulate general has offices in Minneapolis, providing information about Norway to residents of the area as well as fostering better relations between the two countries.

Norway's King Harald V and Queen Sonja visited Minnesota in October 2011, stopping in the Twin Cities and Duluth. Here's a photo gallery of their visit from MPR News.

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