Costly House Special in Final Lap

Posted May 21, 2004 at 6:42pm

With eight days remaining before South Dakota’s June 1 House special election, attorney Stephanie Herseth (D) continues to outraise and outspend state Sen. Larry Diedrich (R), according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on Friday.

Herseth brought in $437,000 and spent $1.1 million from April 1 to May 12. Cumulatively, she has raised $1.8 million and spent $1.7 million on the race.

Diedrich raised a solid $386,000 in the April 1-May 12 period and has raked in a total of $1.3 million and spent $1.1 million during the abbreviated campaign.

Meanwhile, in the state’s high-profile Senate contest, former Rep. John Thune (R) outraised Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D) at a better than 2-to-1 clip in the same period.

For now, however, the House special election is at the forefront of the national political scene.

It is the second competitive House special election of the year and the last contested race before voters head to the polls in November, and it is drawing serious money from both national parties.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee had each spent roughly $1.3 million on the race through May 20, with the vast majority of that total going to long-running television ad campaigns.

In addition, a number of Members on both sides of the aisle have given to Herseth and Diedrich. Just from April 1 to May 12, Diedrich received $48,000 from Members’ campaign committees and leadership political action committees, while Herseth took in $22,000 from the House Democratic Caucus.

Herseth’s strong but ultimately unsuccessful campaign for the seat in 2002 helped her begin the special election race with a 30-point lead over Diedrich. But that margin has steadily closed in the past several months, with both sides now agreeing that Herseth’s lead is somewhere in the single digits.

The last independent poll conducted in the race showed Herseth leading Diedrich 49 percent to 40 percent among likely voters, but with a more narrow 47 percent to 44 percent edge among certain voters. The poll was done by Mason-Dixon Polling & Media Research for KELO-TV. It tested 625 likely voters May 10-12, with a 4 percent margin of error.

A massive amount of resources is being poured into television commercials in the final days of the campaign, according to financial forms filed with the FEC Friday.

Herseth spent $788,000 on media buys from April 1 to May 12. She paid the firm Murphy Putnam, her media consultant, another $90,000 during that period.

The DCCC spent $743,000 on television ads through May 20 — more than half of the total amount the committee has disbursed on independent expenditures in the contest. The DCCC also spent $40,000 on media production, which was paid to the Dixon/Davis Media Group.

Not to be outdone, Diedrich spent $725,000 on media buys and the production of his campaign commercials. Stevens, Reed, Curcio & Potholm received all of that money.

The NRCC has spent $753,000 on television so far in the race, with another $130,000 going to UpGrade Films for production of the ads.

The South Dakota special election was triggered by the resignation of former Rep. Bill Janklow (R) on Jan. 20. His departure followed a conviction on second-degree manslaughter charges for his involvement in an August 2003 automobile accident that left a motorcyclist dead.

Seeking to force Janklow’s hand, Herseth announced late last year that she would again challenge him after receiving a solid 46 percent in 2002.

In the Senate race, Thune’s fundraising capped a strong week for the former Congressman.

Thune raised $1.4 million from April 1 to May 12 compared with Daschle’s $561,000.

Thune also narrowed Daschle’s cash-on-hand edge, ending the quarter $1.5 million beyond the South Dakota Senator.

Earlier in the week, a new independent poll showed Daschle with a narrow 49 percent to 47 percent lead over Thune.

Daschle’s campaign released its own polling that put him 13 points ahead of Thune.