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Democrats see the South Dakota race as a chance to further the momentum gained in Kentucky, while Republicans concede that party leaders don’t relish the idea of losing two special elections in one year.
Herseth’s early edge is due in large part to the positive name identification gained from her challenge to Janklow two years ago. She lost that race 53 percent to 46 percent despite outspending the four-term governor by $200,000.
Janklow resigned the seat Jan. 20 following a second-degree manslaughter conviction related to his involvement in an August 2003 car accident that left a motorcyclist dead.
Herseth also benefits from strong political lineage in the state, as her father is a long-time state legislator and her grandfather served as South Dakota governor in the 1950s.
That family history is laid out in a new 60- second television commercial — the first of the shortened campaign season — that went on the air Tuesday.
“Growing up in South Dakota Stephanie Herseth was taught the importance of public service, and she learned well,” says the ad’s narrator.
A second 30-second ad touts Herseth’s support for a trio of local issues, including country-of-origin labels on meat and increasing the use of ethanol as an alternative fuel. Both ads were produced by Steve Murphy.
Herseth’s strong financial showing has allowed her to begin her ads even as Diedrich is filming spots of his own.
From Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2003, Herseth raised $352,000, enabling her to bank a total of $354,000 thanks to money raised before the period.
Herseth’s campaign estimated that she had raised $800,000 by the end of last week.
Diedrich showed $34,000 in his campaign account at the end of 2003, which was left over after a brief run for the seat in 2002. He did not return a call seeking comment.
The two-term state Senator was not selected as the party’s nominee until late January and therefore had not yet actively begun raising money for this campaign at year’s end.
The Rove event is expected to give his fundraising a significant boost.
Rep. Ralph Regula (Ohio), whom Republican leaders have tasked with leading the effort to raise money for Diedrich, has played a key role in putting together the March 30 event. Regula is running to take the Appropriations Committee gavel in the 109th Congress and is eager to show off his fundraising bona fides.
Other Republican lawmakers who have been heavily involved in organizing the Rove event include Reps. Bob Ney (Ohio), Richard Pombo (Calif.) and Denny Rehberg (Mont.).