South Dakota: Herseth Beats Diedrich in Second Showdown

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Democrat Stephanie Herseth beat Republican Larry Diedrich in their race to serve as South Dakota's lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Tuesday's election marked the second time in five months South Dakotans were choosing between Herseth and Diedrich. On June 1, Herseth narrowly defeated Diedrich, a former state lawmaker, in a special election to fill the remaining seven months of former Rep. Bill Janklow's term. Janklow resigned in January after a felony conviction from a 2003 highway crash.

Herseth had lost to Janklow in the 2002 House race. The Republican Party picked Diedrich as its candidate early this year.

Diedrich said Herseth told South Dakotans what they wanted to hear while following the party line in Washington.

Herseth's campaign labeled her as an independent voice, saying she bucked party leaders on some important votes.

Herseth, 33, of Brookings, 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.

She graduated summa cum laude from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and then attended Georgetown's law school. She also worked for the Public Utilities Commission in Pierre, for U.S. District Judge Charles Kornmann and as a federal court law clerk. Herseth practiced law in Washington for less than a year before returning to South Dakota to run for Congress.

After losing to Janklow, Herseth, who is single, worked for the South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation in 2003.

Diedrich, 47, grew up on the family farm near Elkton. He graduated from South Dakota State University with an animal science degree. He raises corn, soybeans and hogs with his brother.

Diedrich, a past president of the South Dakota Soybean Association, has served as president and chairman of the American Soybean Association.

He was elected to the South Dakota House in 1996 and re-elected in 1998. He won a state Senate seat in 2000 and served in the Senate until resigning early this year. While in the House, he chaired the Retirement Laws Committee; in the Senate, he was chairman of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Diedrich and his wife, Jackie, have four children: Josh, 25; Brandi, 21; Christopher, 18; and Mikkail, 14.