South Dakota Abortion Advocate Wins Special Congressional Election

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 2, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Dakota Abortion Advocate Wins Special Congressional Election

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
June 2, 2004

Washington, DC ( — A pro-abortion candidate from South Dakota has won an open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, defeating a pro-life opponent.

Democrat Stephanie Herseth narrowly defeated Republican pro-life candidate Larry Diedrich on Tuesday in a closely-watched political contest.

Herseth’s cliffhanger victory means that the Democrats have picked up a second House seat this year. Democratic Rep. Ben Chandler won a special election for an open seat in Kentucky in February.

In November, all 435 seats along with a third of the U.S. Senate will be up for grabs. While many political activists are focused on the Presidential race, Congressional races will also be of prime importance, since they will determine which party controls Capitol Hill — and pro-life legislation — the next two years.

Herseth will be completing the term of pro-life Rep. Bill Janklow (R), who resigned in January after being convicted of vehicular manslaughter.

While some Democratic operatives are claiming that Herseth’s victory could have a snowball effect, placing the House in Democratic hands, the Republicans still hold an edge which could prove difficult to overcome. The GOP holds 228 seats, compared to the Democrats’ 206, with one seat held by an Independent.

A rematch between Herseth and Diedrich will occur this fall as the two candidates compete for a full two-year House term. While Herseth would have the advantage of incumbency, Diedrich could benefit from the fact that President Bush will carry the state by a wide margin and increase Republican turnout.

Herseth, who is 33, comes from a political family. She’s the granddaughter of a former governor and daughter of a state lawmaker. Diedrich, 46, is a farmer and former state senator.

While some news accounts indicated that Herseth supported some "abortion rights," the candidate accepted money from EMILY’s List, a fundraising group that bankrolls female candidates who support unlimited abortion.

The Republican Party reportedly mass-mailed a half-dozen different pieces of campaign literature labeling Herseth "strongly pro-choice" and noting that she had received funding from "radical pro-choice groups."

On his campaign website, Diedrich listed his pro-life stance as a key issue, saying, "I am committed to protecting our unborn children. The recently-enacted ban on partial birth abortion was long overdue and I am pleased to have co-sponsored the bill that outlawed the horrific practice here in South Dakota in 1997."

Diedrich added, "I am also proud to have sponsored a resolution urging the FDA to reconsider its approval of the abortion drug RU-486. This drug has been responsible for causing severe health complications for women who use it, and in some cases, has even resulted in death. In South Dakota, minors are required to have parental consent to pierce their ears or get a tattoo. Doesn’t it make sense that they ought to have that same parental consent to receive an abortion?"

Although Diedrich publicized his pro-life stand, much of the race leading up to Tuesday’s election focused on other issues, such as prescription drugs, Medicare, tax cuts, and veterans’ benefits. The GOP also notes that Herseth began the campaign with a huge lead because of the jump-start she received during an unsuccessful run for the seat in 2002.

GOP leaders credited Diedrich with managing to cut Herseth’s support, since he got into the race late and was further down in the polls because of the Janklow controversy.

Diedrich narrowed a 30-point deficit and lost by only one percent of the vote.