Bad News from the Badlands :  Democrats Gain One House Seat In South Dakota On Declining Support

   The returns are in from the South Dakota Special House election and primary and boy are they bad.  Stephanie Herseth, the daughter of a famous political family in South Dakota, won the special election to the House of Representatives 132,236 to Republican Larry Diedrich's 129,292.

   The election was called when the incumbent, former Governor Bill Janklow, resigned after being convicted of manslaughter in the death of a motorcyclist he hit while speeding and drunk.

   Herseth won with 21,420 fewer votes than the 153,656 votes she lost with when she ran against Janklow in 2002.  Diedrich lost because his total was 50,731 votes less than Jankow received.

   Special elections and primaries routinely receive a lower voter turnout than General elections, but the turnout in this special election was slightly higher than the depressed totals of the 1998 General election.  But it is probably not altogether a coincidence that the turnout was the same as 1998 when Tom Daschle was elected to the Senate, John Thune, who will face Daschle in November, was elected to the House and Bill Janklow was elected Governor.

   The voters of South Dakota will have a chance to reconsider their choice in November when Larry Diedrich and Stephanie Herseth face each other for election to the full term.  This special election was only to determine who would serve out the remaining seven months of Bill Janklow's term.

   If anyone should be worried about this result it is Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.  It is difficult to imagine that in such a evenly divided political climate the House and Senate delegation from South Dakota, one of the most staunchly Republican states of the Union, could be 100% Democratic.

   The one undeniable conclusion from the South Dakota election is that the country is evenly divided between the two parties and that the voters are keeping their options open.  The lower turnout is a sign that anything can happen in November.

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Contact:  Joshua Leinsdorf