Herseth Declares Candidacy While Janklow Mulls Options

Posted October 30, 2003 at 4:47pm

Attempting to force Rep. Bill Janklow’s (R-S.D.) hand, 2002 Democratic nominee Stephanie Herseth announced Thursday that she plans to run for the at-large seat again in 2004 regardless of what the former governor decides about his own political future.

“I intend to run for Congress,” said Herseth, adding that she “tried to make my decision independent of what others’ decisions will be.”

Controversy has surrounded Janklow since Aug. 16, when he was involved in a car accident that left a motorcyclist dead. Janklow was later charged with second degree manslaughter — a felony — as well as several misdemeanors. He will stand trial in December.

After the charges were filed, many observers speculated that Janklow would immediately step down, setting off a special election.

He did not, and, in fact, has not yet announced whether he will seek a second House term in November 2004.

Janklow’s office did not return a late call seeking comment.

Following the incident, Democrats remained largely silent about Janklow’s decision; Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and the former four-term governor are close friends and Herseth would not return calls seeking comment.

After several months of waiting, however, Herseth will now move forward, assuredly leading to a renewed interest in Janklow’s decision. She said she had spoken with both Daschle and Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) but would not characterize those discussions.

In her first run for elective office in 2002, Herseth ran a surprisingly strong campaign against Janklow, who is something of a living legend in the state.

Janklow took a 53 percent to 45 percent victory but even Republicans acknowledged the race was significantly closer than that for much of the cycle.

Herseth said she was pleased with the campaign she ran in 2002. “It was the campaign we had to run,” she said.

She blamed her loss largely on a national movement toward Republicans and the emphasis on national security issues, a topic more closely identified with the GOP.

After the defeat, Herseth became the executive director of the South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation and traveled the state speaking to local Democratic groups.

Herseth asserted she will be in the race whether it is a special election, an open-seat contest or a challenge to Janklow.

If Janklow resigns his seat, which seems increasingly unlikely, Gov. Mike Rounds (R) would have 10 days to make the vacancy official. He would then call a special election no later than 90 days after the opening is official.

Republicans mentioned in either a special election or open-seat scenario include former Rep. John Thune, who is reportedly more interested in challenging Daschle, state Sen. Larry Diedrich and former Rep. Barb Everist.