U.S. Congressional candidate talks politics with the Collegian

Jill Fier

Jill Fier

Q: What is your full name?

A: Stephanie Marie Herseth

Q: And your title?

A: Candidate for U.S. Congress

Q: Where did you grow up and go to school?

A: I grew up on my family farm near Houghton, and I went to Colombia Elementary School and Groton High School. And then I went to Georgetown University, both for college and law school.

Q: Why did you decide to go into politics?

A: My father served in the state legislature and my grandmother was secretary of state, and growing up with family members in public service, I cultivated that interest throughout high school and college.

I was interested in the political system and in government, but when I pursued my law degree, I was thinking at that time that I would like to go into private practice for a period of time, or teach.

But I was very concerned having grown up in South Dakota and spent some time in the nation’s capital, that interests for rural America, and rural South Dakota in particular, were not being communicated as strongly as they needed to be, especially farm pollicy, as well as health care. I thought I could make a difference to South Dakotans by getting involved in politics.

Q; What brought you back to South Dakota after you finished your education out in Washington D.C.?

A: After I finished my education, I started my legal career here in South Dakota, so what brought me back was my job. I worked in the federal courts for judge Charles Kornnann, a district court judge in Pierre and Aberdeen. I had been back quite frequently during college supplementing my education.

What brought me back again was my desire to serve South Dakota, and the fact that my family was here and I didn’t want to be a lawyer in a big law firm for very long.

Q: Do you think you are at an advantage or a disadvantage being a woman going into politics in South Dakota?

A: Well, I don’t know that it’s cut either way.

I think South Dakotans are aware of the fact that they haven’t yet elected a woman to the U.S. House, but South Dakotans aren’t going to vote for a woman just because she’s a woman.They are going to evaluate a candidate based on her qualifications and her ideas for the future of South Dakota.

I definitely don’t think it’s a disadvantage. I think that it may be viewed as an advantage to some voters, but only if the woman candidate holds her own, and demonstrates her strengths and weaknesses, and that she can get the job done and work effectively in a bipartisan government.

Q: Did you enjoy teaching at SDSU?

A: Yes, I did. It was the highlight of my year to be back in an environment with college students who were so interested in government and the political process. I really appreciated the SDSU faculty members inviting me to be a guest speaker in their classroom.

Q: What do you like most about a career in politics, and what do you like least?

A: Well, I would have to say that what I like most about both politics and law is the versatility of my law degree and where I’m using it. In politics you can use that talent and education and your ability to communicate to help people and to make a difference, whether it’s a legal issue, or whether it’s a public policy issue.

And maybe the thing I like the least is the misunderstandings that can occurr when people aren’t open-minded. Whether that’s dealing with a client or opposing counsel in the legal setting, or other candidates in the political arena, or voters that haven’t gotten all the information about you or your positions, you have to work so hard to clarify.

Q: Why did you decide to run for the seat in Congress again?

A: Being part of the political process, even if you aren’t successful in a particular election, is rewarding in and of itself. Just feeling that you can add something to the debate and the public process and appreciating being a part of the process.

I still want the job representing South Dakota in Congress. I think that in my second job interview, which is this election coming up, that I can persude a majority of the voters.

Q: How do you respond to people that say that Democrats don’t represent the needs or values of the people of South Dakota?

A: Well I guess I would respond by saying that South Dakotans, whether they are Republicans, Democrats or Independents, want leadership, not labels. South Dakotans have a history of choosing candidates based on their positions on issues.

Q: Where would you like to be in your career in 20 years?

A: I think I would like to be in a place where I can feel that I have made a difference for the people who need a helping hand. And I hope that I always have opportunities to share new ideas, new perspectives and insight.