SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – As South Dakota Republicans wait to pick their candidate for a June 1 special election to fill the job vacated by Bill Janklow (search), the Democrat in the U.S. House race says she's building on momentum.
"It's like starting a small business," Stephanie Herseth (search) said Tuesday. "In the campaign of 2002, it was starting from scratch. This year it's like expanding a small business."
Herseth, 33, said she's getting help from some of the same people who helped in the last race and attracting other talented people to her campaign.
She lost to Janklow in 2002 by 7 percentage points.
Since then, Herseth has led the newly formed South Dakota Farmers Union Legal Foundation (search). She also serves on the board of a Brookings bank and taught upper-level political science at South Dakota State University.
Herseth said she's still on the bank board but gave up her Farmers Union (search) and teacher jobs so she can focus full time on the campaign.
Her campaign office is in Sioux Falls, but she said she plans to keep living in Brookings.
"I really like Brookings. I plan to stay there even after I win in June," Herseth said.
Herseth was raised on her family's farm near Houghton, in Brown County. Her father, Lars Herseth, was a longtime state legislator. Her grandfather, Ralph Herseth, was South Dakota's governor from 1959-1961.
Herseth got her college and law degrees from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She taught at the school and practiced law in Washington before moving to Aberdeen (search) in 2001. In college, Herseth also interned for the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission in Pierre and served as law clerk for U.S. District Judge Charles B. Kornmann in Pierre and Aberdeen.
During the 2002 campaign, she was criticized for being out of the state so long. Herseth said she plans to challenge those comments.
"I'm going to be more aggressive on letting the voters know I'm qualified for this job," she said in an interview. "I think in the last election with the matchup with Bill Janklow, his years in public service overshadowed my qualifications."
The Republican Central Committee will pick a House candidate Thursday and Friday in Sioux Falls.
Democratic Central Committee members plan to meet the morning of March 6, and the only person under consideration is Herseth, said Jason Schulte, executive director of the South Dakota Democratic Party.
"I think it's a pretty clear consensus that Stephanie ran so well. She ran a positive campaign last time. Knowing Stephanie, she's not taking anything for granted. But it seems that South Dakota Democrats want her as their candidate."
Herseth said it's likely she will formally announce her candidacy after that meeting.
Some of her issues are the cost of health insurance, creating jobs, better infrastructure such as water projects, an energy policy that promotes ethanol, and topics related to military troops and homeland security.
Herseth raised $1.45 million during the last campaign. Her first report for this year's campaign is due later this month. She wouldn't give specifics so far but said, "We're very pleased."