- The Washington Times - Monday, August 26, 2002

PIERRE, S.D. Although the race for this sparsely populated state's lone House seat has been overshadowed by South Dakota's high-profile Senate campaign, the stakes are nearly as high.
With Republican Rep. John Thune giving up his seat to challenge freshman Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, Democrats have at least a chance to win the open seat in this state of 754,000 residents fewer than the population of the District. Democrats need to pick up six seats nationally to regain control of the House.
Republicans seemingly hold a big advantage with their House candidate, four-term Gov. William J. Janklow. He is a confidante of President Bush, who last week at Mount Rushmore said of Mr. Janklow, "He might have invented the word 'piece of work.'"
"But he's a good piece of work," Mr. Bush added.
Mr. Janklow, 62, is a take-charge executive who is credited with pushing through the biggest tax cut in state history, as well as wiring all 622 public schools to the Internet and enacting a program that uses inmates to build low-cost housing.
The governor counts among his weaknesses fatty foods, powerboats and stock cars. He self-deprecatingly refers to himself as "the fattest water-skier in the state" and "the world's worst fund-raiser." The latter description may provide Democrats with an opening to exploit.
His Democratic opponent, newcomer Stephanie Herseth, had outraised Mr. Janklow as of June 30, $601,000 to $463,000. Mr. Janklow said he expects that her advantage by now has grown to about $250,000.
A poll for the Herseth campaign released Aug. 5 showed her trailing by one percentage point. Mr. Janklow says the poll wasn't accurate but concedes that the race will be "competitive."
"I don't have enough money right now to tell my story," Mr. Janklow said last week over a lunch of hamburgers and hot fudge sundaes at the governor's residence. "I'm telling you the truth. I'm the world's worst fund-raiser. I don't ask for money well. I'd rather take a public flogging than have to go beg for money."
He sighed with an air of resignation and said, "It'll be all right. In the final analysis, people know me well enough."
They do not know Miss Herseth, 31, as well, but they probably know her family. Her grandfather Ralph Herseth was governor, her grandmother Lorna Herseth was South Dakota's secretary of state, and her father, Lars, served in the state legislature for 20 years, losing the governor's race in 1986.
She is a former faculty member at Georgetown University Law Center who has worked as a law clerk for federal judges. Miss Herseth is pro-gun and pro-choice, and the liberal feminist lobby EMILY's List is making her election one of its top priorities.
Miss Herseth said her pro-choice views in a largely pro-life state is probably her biggest political vulnerability.
"We may disagree on it legislatively, but we all agree on the same overarching objective, and that is to make abortions as rare as possible," she said in an interview.
Asked about her youth, Miss Herseth rattles off several examples of other state politicians who began their congressional careers relatively young: former Sen. Larry Pressler at age 32, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle at 30, Mr. Thune at 34.
"There's a little bit of history on our side here," she said.
Mr. Janklow said Miss Herseth simply hasn't had to make the tough calls that he has over the years.
"What's the toughest decision that she's ever had to make? What law school to go to?" Mr. Janklow said.
Miss Herseth said one of her most difficult decisions has been shifting gears from a legal career to seek public office, with the financial sacrifices it entails. Her family knows "what it's like to come up a bit short, and the toll that can take," she said.
Mr. Janklow cited his decision to close one of the state's colleges because of budget constraints and declining enrollment, an episode he said "cost me huge support politically."
"It cost me immensely, but I did the right thing," he said.
Miss Herseth said Mr. Janklow has been in government long enough.
"He's been our chief executive for 16 years," she said. "But it's time for new energy and new ideas, a style of leadership that some people think is better suited for legislative office."
Mr. Janklow, who is term-limited, said he initially wasn't planning to run for the House seat.
"I've had a marvelous career," he said. "I've had a great life."
Then the September 11 terrorist attacks occurred. About a week later, he said, his 8-year-old granddaughter asked him if terrorists were going to fly a plane into her house. At that moment, he resolved to make homeland security a top priority in Congress.
"I sat there thinking, I'm 62 years old, and in my whole life, I've never had to worry about anything like that," Mr. Janklow said. "To the extent I can do something about it, I'm gonna. Because no kid should ever have to ask that question."

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