Money, visibility, turnout key factors in special race

Joshua Horton

Joshua Horton

In just about four months South Dakota will elect someone to finish out the term of Rep. Bill Janklow. As soon as they win, they will need to have a staff in place ready to do the business of the state. I do not envy Stephanie Herseth or Larry Diedrich for the amount of work that lies ahead.

In one of the most interesting events in South Dakota politics, the upcoming replacement election for the open House of Representatives seat will most likely see the winning candidate stay in office until 2006.

Why do I say that?

Because it would be foolish to elect someone in June and replace them in November. South Dakotans understand the importance of allowing our representatives time to learn and grow in such an important position.

There are several important factors that will decide this race; money, visibility, and voter turnout. Of course the basics of any race are money, media and message.

Everyone knows that you need money to run any kind of campaign. You can expect that both the Republican and Democratic parties will be dumping money and volunteers into this state to make sure their respective candidates will win. As far as organization, Herseth has the clear advantage, having established several offices with staff already in place. She also has the advantage of knowing exactly what she must do to win.

Diedrich has never run in a statewide race. Due to the timing of his nomination, he is starting at a disadvantage on both time and preparation. Although those might seem to be huge factors to overcome, money can help even the playing field, and the Republican’s have plenty of it to dump into Larry Diedrich’s campaign.

Visibility will be a large factor in this race. Due to the shortness of the campaign, name recognition and visibility will be very important.

Clearly, Herseth has the advantage here, being that she just ran for the seat 15 months ago and did very well. In the next four months, Diedrich has a lot of area to cover, and although this is a disadvantage, it may not be quite as large as it appears.

First, he is a state senator, which puts him in a position of knowing a lot of key people all over the state. Although generally unknown to the masses, many influential and important locals probably know him.

The last factor will be voter turnout. South Dakota usually does well in this area. However, this is a primary and turnout is always lower than on that cold day in November.

This is probably where Diedrich has the advantage. Republicans are more likely to vote than Democrats, plain and simple.

However, due to the special circumstances of this election, I imagine that turnout will be higher than usual, but we will have to see.

It is already shaping up to be an election that should be closely watched. The only sure thing is, whoever is elected will have quite a mess to deal with when they get to Washington.

Reach Joshua Horton at [email protected].