MITCHELL, S.D. – The crowd was smaller than for the U.S. Senate debate but the tenor was more subdued Wednesday afternoon when the Republican and Democratic candidates for South Dakota's U.S. House seat debated farm issues at the Dakotafest ag expo (search) southeast of Mitchell.
Herseth won the seat in a special election June 1 to fill the remaining months of the term of former Rep. Bill Janklow (search), who resigned after a criminal conviction. Diedrich, who lost to Herseth on June 1, again is challenging her, this time for the two-year House term that starts in January.
Both Herseth and Diedrich refrained from the direct attacks that characterized much of a debate earlier in the day between Sen. Tom Daschle and former Rep. John Thune.
Both House candidates said their experience is what makes them right for the job.
Diedrich said that as a farmer, he's had to make many of the decisions that people in the audience are concerned about.
Herseth, a lawyer, said she would continue representing South Dakotans in Congress by avoiding partisanship when the state's best interests are at stake. She said she will be "a loud, an effective and independent voice for rural America, for family agriculture and the future of every young person sitting in here today."
Many small towns and rural areas have suffered, Herseth said.
"The reason that I decided to run for Congress ... is because of what I've seen happen to these communities and what's been happening in other parts of the country," she said.
Diedrich ended his presentation by saying there are too few farmers and too many lawyers in Congress.
He said that when he started running, there were 146 lawyers in Congress and only 16 farmers and ranchers.
"I ask you, do you think government is working better today than it did 200-plus years ago when most of those people were involved in agriculture? ... We have an opportunity to change that number to 17 this fall," Diedrich said.
Noel Hamiel, publisher of The Daily Republic in Mitchell, moderated. "It was a civil and informative debate," he said.