It appears that South Dakota Republicans will have three contenders to choose among when they cast their votes in this summer’s Congressional primary. Right now the field looks to be unusually strong.
I have had the pleasure this year of appearing with two of the Republicans aiming to unseat Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin. I arrived a bit late for a Tea Party meeting in Watertown, and got to enjoy most of Dr. Blake Curd’s talk. If memory serves, Dr. Curd was wearing jeans and boots. He brought a copy of one version of the health care bill, and it stood nearly as tall on the stage as I would. Dr. Curd struck me as a very serious candidate with an excellent command of the issues and a natural born ability to connect with his audience. Those two things don’t always go together, and that means we usually have to settle for the latter. With only this one glimpse to go on, I think that Representative Curd would give us both.
More recently I took part in discussion on Dakota Midday with Secretary of State Chris Nelson. The topic was the recent Supreme Court case Citizens United v. FEC. Secretary Nelson was speaking in his official capacity, so I didn’t get to see his political skills. I can say that he was very good on the law and the issues surrounded it. He has that rare ability to unravel very complex legal knots in a way that any listener can understand. That is something to be wished for in a statesman. I warmed to him immediately.
More recently still I received a note that Kristi Noem (pronounced like gnome), Representative for District 6 of the South Dakota house, is throwing her hat in the ring. Perhaps I will get to hear Representative Noem at some venue, but right now I don’t know where she stands on national issues. I have heard from people I trust that she is sharp and articulate, and knows the public business.
She does have several advantages that are very important for aspiring candidates: she is photogenic, well-rooted in the community, and has three equally attractive children. We may think that such things do not matter, but perhaps they do. As a rancher’s wife, she will appeal to a lot of South Dakota voters.
This looks to me like an unusually strong field. The only SD poll I know about had Congresswoman Herseth-Sandlin ahead, but below 50%. That is generally a warning sign for an incumbent, especially if she has served more than one term. I have also heard from my various contacts that Ms. Herseth-Sandlin’s fundraising has been anemic. There is certainly the sense in the air that she is vulnerable.
A strong field of contenders for the nomination means that Ms. Herseth-Sandlin may well be replaced by a Republican. That would be more likely if, as seems the case, there is a strong wave building for the GOP. One of the above may be our next representative in Congress.
Whether that is the case or not, there is also the future to look to. Any one of the above looks like a serious contender for Tim Johnson’s senate seat in 2014, especially if Senator Johnson decides to retire. Curd, Nelson, and Noem must compete this year, but it is very important that they avoid savaging one another. If they can avoid this, the Republican Party may soon control all of South Dakota’s national delegation.