Incumbent Stephanie Herseth Sandlin hasn’t had many close races recently, but now she’s fighting for her seat against Republican Kristi Noem, a high-profile member of the South Dakota legislature. She’s going to have a real fight on her hands as her district, and many like it, are turning toward Republicans this November. The race should be considered a toss-up.
Candidates for South Dakota’s At-Large Congressional District (two-year term)
Candidate: Stephanie Herseth Sandlin
Political experience: Herseth Sandlin was elected in 2004 and sits on the Veterans’ Affairs, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committees. She is also on the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.
Professional experience: She worked with U.S. District Court Judge Charles Kornmann, having been admitted to the South Dakota Bar. She taught courses at Augustana College and South Dakota State University on public service and politics.
Key issues: Herseth Sandlin wants to use South Dakota’s natural resources — wind, renewable fuels and biomass — to grow energy independence. She says her position on the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming helps her function as an advocate for rural America.
Furthering her clout in that arena, she notes on her website that her seat on the Agriculture Committee helped her to write parts of the 2008 Farm Bill that preserved the safety net for farmers and ranchers and encouraged famers’ children to stay involved in agriculture.
Endorsements: The National Rifle Association, Veterans of Foreign Wars PAC, VetsVision and Veterans and Military Families for Progress have endorsed Herseth Sandlin.
Chances of maintaining her seat: Herseth Sandlin is no longer the favorite in her own district. But she does have a funding advantage to help her along. She has $706,821 while her opponent has $291,676 in remaining funds as of early October. She has conservative credentials for a Democrat, scoring a big win with an NRA endorsement. She’s also had some good news recently, when a Bennett Petts and Normington poll (a Democratic pollster) suggested she had a 13-point lead in the polls. It’s not an independent pollster, though, so the poll should be taken with some skepticism.
Candidate: Kristi Noem
Political experience: Noem is the assistant majority leader in the South Dakota state house. She has served on numerous boards, including the South Dakota Soybean Association.
Professional experience: Noem raises Angus cattle and Quarter Horses on a ranch near Castlewood.
Key issues: Noem is very concerned about Medicare, according to her website. The top issues she lists both discuss Medicare; she would like to fix payments so that seniors are ensured access, and she would guarantee payment rates aren’t a political issue. She further says that fraud is threatening the system, and that rooting out and preventing that fraud will help strengthen Medicare. She opposes privatizing Social Security and doesn’t want the new health care bill to threaten the viability of Medicare.
She says she would make sure the U.S. border was less porous by adding additional patrols, fences and technology to combat illegal immigration. Noem feels this is the preferred path to combating the problem over an amnesty program.
Endorsements: Noem has been endorsed by South Dakota Sportsmen, the Susan B. Anthony List and Mitt Romney.
Chances of unseating Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Noem has the best shot of any Republican candidate in years. In a race that’s too close to call and an election year in which incumbent Democrats are endangered, she is working to show that she deserves a chance to be the state’s sole representative.
Key Differences between Kristi Noem and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin
Jobs: Noem doesn’t want to divert money from the private sector to government to stimulate the economy; she wants to cut wasteful spending and get out of the way of small businesses. Herseth Sandlin says she wants to crack down on off-shore tax havens for corporations that ship jobs overseas and give a payroll-tax holiday to local businesses.
Health care: Herseth Sandlin did not support the health care reform bill, but she says some of the provisions were helpful. She says the overall bill was too expensive and could use improvement. Noem supports repealing the health care bill. She wants to increase competition between health care providers and insurers instead, make purchasing across state lines a possibility, and instate tort reform.
Native American issues: Noem wants to work to promote economic development, ensure basic law and order in Native American communities and improve schools and health care access in tribal country. Herseth Sandlin argues that she is in a great position on the Natural Resources Committee to help improve public safety, economic development and improve health and educational opportunities on the reservations.
2008 results: Herseth Sandlin received 68 percent of the vote to Republican Chris Lien’s 32 percent.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 86.2 percent of the district is white, 8.1 percent American Indian and Alaska Native, 2.2 percent Hispanic, 0.9 percent black and 0.8 percent Asian,.
The Cook Partisan Index gives the South Dakota’s At Large District a rating of R+9, a strong advantage to the GOP in this district.