Herseth Wins South Dakota


With all 798 precincts reporting, Stephanie Herseth (D) has won the statewide U.S. House seat in South Dakota. Precisely as the Crystal Ball predicted, this race got close at the end and Herseth pulled out a narrow 51percent to 49 percent victory – a margin of 2,981 votes out of over a quarter of a million votes cast. Our South Dakota analyst, who observed events leading up to the special election in the Mount Rushmore State, reports back that the victory is owed at least in part to the active Herseth field operations in Rapid City, which took a large bite out of Larry Diedrich’s West River margins.

Herseth’s triumph, as minimal as it was, gives the Democratic Party bragging rights for House elections. This is the second House seat the Democrats have captured from the Republicans in 2004–the first, in January, was for the Kentucky seat of new Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher, won by Democrat Ben Chandler. In addition, this is the first time in over six decades that Democrats have controlled the entire congressional delegation in South Dakota. Incredibly, all six congressional seats from the Dakotas are now Democratic, despite the fact that North and South Dakota are heavily Republican in presidential elections.

Could this mean that one incumbent Democrat in South Dakota will lose in November? It is very possible. Which one will it be? Diedrich is again challenging Herseth, and Bush’s certain victory in South Dakota might give him the coattail necessary to win (though we are still betting on Herseth). Or maybe the loser will be Senator Tom Daschle, who is already in a tight race with former Republican Congressman John Thune. Could this be why Sen. Daschle seemed less than enthusiastic about the Herseth campaign prior to the June 1 special election?