- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Congress reconvened yesterday minus Rep. Bill Janklow, South Dakota Republican, who was charged last week with second-degree manslaughter for speeding past a stop sign and colliding with a motorcyclist.

Even as whispered speculation swirled around the Capitol corridors that Mr. Janklow’s political career is finished, Democrats and Republicans alike struck a solemn tone. Lawmakers offered condolences to everyone involved in the accident, advised against prejudging the Janklow case and declined to demand his resignation.

“This is a matter only he and his family can decide,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat and personal friend of Mr. Janklow’s. “And I know that this is a matter that is of concern for him, as it would be to anybody in this situation.”

Mr. Janklow, 63, faces 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for the accident he is accused of causing during last month’s recess while at home in South Dakota.

Mr. Janklow was traveling at more than 70 mph Aug. 16 when he went through a stop sign and killed motorcyclist Randolph E. Scott, 55, of Hardwick, Minn., according to police investigators. No alcohol was involved, said their report.

“My heart goes out to the Scott family and especially to the Janklow family for these very difficult times and circumstances they face,” Mr. Daschle told reporters yesterday.

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said in a meeting with reporters yesterday: “I am certainly not calling for his resignation at this point in time.”

But, Mr. Hoyer added, “once he is found guilty, that is a different story. Then the rules [of the House] will go into play and my view is he will resign.”

Under House rules, a felony conviction could cost Mr. Janklow his voting privileges on the floor and would automatically trigger an ethics investigation.

Chief of Staff Chris Braendlin said yesterday that Mr. Janklow hasn’t made any decisions about his future or when he will return to Washington.

“He loves what he does, but he’s still recovering,” Mr. Braendlin said.

Mr. Janklow suffered a broken hand and a head injury in the crash. His son, Russ Janklow, told the Associated Press shortly after the accident: “I don’t think my dad is spending five seconds on how this will affect his political career. He’s dealing with emotions of guilt and feeling terrible.”

Mr. Janklow’s departure could undermine Republican plans to have former Rep. John Thune take on Mr. Daschle, who is up for re-election next year and polls suggest will be vulnerable. Mr. Thune, who vacated the at-large seat in 2002 to unsuccessfully challenge Sen. Tim Johnson, South Dakota Democrat, is also considered a viable candidate to replace Mr. Janklow.

Democrat Stephanie Herseth, who came within 7 percentage points of beating Mr. Janklow, the popular four-term governor in 2002, is expected to run either way.

Consumer activist and perennial presidential candidate Ralph Nader wrote Mr. Janklow demanding his resignation.

“You should resign your congressional seat immediately in atonement for what was only going to be a matter of time — the taking of life by a driver relentlessly bent on turning his vehicle into a lawless, dangerous missile,” he wrote.

Mr. Nader was referring to Mr. Janklow’s reputation for speeding that even Mr. Janklow himself acknowledged during a State of the State address while he was governor.

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