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South Dakota - At Large

Incumbent -- Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D) ; Defeated by Kristi Noem, R, in general election on November 2, 2010

Tossup
Race Ratings Key
 

Updated Oct. 14, 2010

State Rep. Kristi Noem (R) represents Herseth Sandlin's most serious challenge since she won her first full term in 2004.

Republicans haven't able to recruit a top challenger against Herseth Sandlin, a member of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition, before now. It didn't help the GOP's cause that 2006 and 2008 ended up being big Democratic wave elections. The Congresswoman's previous two winning margins belie just how vulnerable she could be in the right environment against the right candidate.

Noem, a rancher who was first elected to the state House in 2006, has emphasized her credentials as a fiscal conservative. She has tried to paint the incumbent as tainted by her time in Washington -- especially highlighting the fact that she is married to a lobbyist, former Rep. Max Sandlin (D-Texas). Noem has also criticized Herseth Sandlin for her vote to elect Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as Speaker and is attempting to tie her to national Democratic leaders in general.

Herseth Sandlin has countered by portraying herself as an independent voice in Congress, holding up the her vote against the health care bill as evidence she is not in lock step with her party.

Noem has had problems of her own. The late August revelation that she has nearly 30 traffic violations over the past 20 years was damaging.

 

District Information

District Profile from Politics in America

A fertile agriculture-based economy keeps farmers and ranchers in business. But the lure of the state's cities -- and their finance, technology and health care jobs -- has driven steady migration away from the grasslands and cornfields.

Nearly two-thirds of all counties in the state have lost population since 2000, but Sioux Falls in the east and Rapid City in the west grew. Access to interstate highways and a concentration of jobs led to significant population growth in those areas, and new residents have settled in state capital Pierre, as well. The arid, hilly portion of the state around the Badlands, Mount Rushmore and other Black Hills attractions relies on ranching, mining and tourism.

South Dakota has one of the nation's highest percentages of American Indians, at nearly 9 percent of the population. But gaming revenue from Indian casinos has failed to eliminate the poverty conditions on reservations. Several of the nation's poorest counties are entirely within reservations here, including Ziebach County, which has the highest poverty rate in the country.

The Missouri River, which splits the state, used to be considered a political divide as well. Now, western ranching conservatives and increasing numbers of Republicans in the east edge out urban and farming Democrats at the polls. The GOP enjoys an 8-percentage-point voter registration advantage overall.

Major Industry

Agriculture, finance, tourism

Military Bases

Ellsworth Air Force Base, 3,589 military, 607 civilian (2011)

Cities

Sioux Falls, 153,888; Rapid City, 67,956

Notable

More than 200 Sioux were massacred in one day at Wounded Knee in 1890.

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