Herseth not as unbeatable as many Democrats think

Tony Venhuizen

Tony Venhuizen

Last weekend, Republicans met to select a candidate for Bill Janklow’s U.S. House seat. On the fourth ballot, the convention unanimously selected Larry Diedrich, a farmer and state legislator from Elkton.

Ever since it became evident that Bill Janklow would not be a candidate in 2004, the Democrats have been crowing about their candidate. In their words, Stephanie Herseth is “a dream candidate” and “unbeatable.” Even some Republicans voiced their doubts that she could be beaten.

While I would never characterize Herseth as “unbeatable,” I will concede that she has strengths as a candidate: she is young, attractive, and articulate. She is an excellent speaker and can win over a crowd. Last semester, I was student in her class on political parties and campaigns and I witnessed firsthand Stephanie Herseth’s strengths as a candidate.

Stephanie Herseth is not unbeatable, however. She has weaknesses, and Larry Diedrich is just the kind Republican who can articulate those weaknesses. Compare their resumes:

Stephanie Herseth has never held an elected office. Larry Diedrich has been elected to the state legislature four times and is well-respected as a legislator.

Herseth has never operated a business. Diedrich operates a large family farm in rural Elkton.

Herseth only moved back to South Dakota two or three years ago.

Diedrich lives in the house he grew up in. Herseth left the state to go to college. Diedrich is a proud alumnus of South Dakota State University.

In 2002, Stephanie Herseth sought the agricultural vote by emphasizing her childhood on a Houghton farm and talking about ag issues. That may not work so well this year.

Larry Diedrich is a nationally recognized leader in ag issues. His numerous leadership positions include the presidency of the National Soybean Association. In this position he spent time lobbying in Washington for South Dakota’s farmers. Until his recent resignation from the state legislature, Diedrich was the chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Can Larry Diedrich beat Stephanie Herseth? Sure he can. Stephanie currently has a name-recognition advantage, but one ad campaign will change that. Two years ago, no one had heard of Stephanie Herseth either.

The Argus Leader reported two days after Diedrich’s nomination that Herseth had a 10:1 campaign fund advantage. One can be certain that Herseth’s money advantage will melt away; the June 1 special election will be the only House election in the country that day and both parties will be eager to make a statement with a victory.

Larry Diedrich is smart, likeable and knowledgeable. He is the most experienced candidate.

South Dakota needs a representative who is more than a pretty face. This state needs a representative who can be an effective advocate for South Dakota in Washington. Larry Diedrich is that person.

Reach Tony Venhuizen at [email protected].