|Stephanie Herseth (Democrat)|
In one of her campaign ads, Stephanie Herseth talks about creating opportunities to allow the children of South Dakota to stay in their home state.
"I want every child in South Dakota to grow up and find a good job here at home," Herseth says in the commercial. "That was my dream growing up and it is what I will fight for in Congress. People of all ages should be able to stay here or return here and succeed in the new economy. To me that is what is most important."
For Herseth, it is an issue that strikes close to home. The 31-year-old attorney has returned to South Dakota to mount a campaign for Congress against one of the state's political icons, four-term Gov. Bill Janklow.
Although Herseth was only four when Janklow won his first statewide campaign, hers is a name known in political circles. Her grandfather, Ralph, served as governor from 1959 to 1961 and her grandmother, Lorna, was South Dakota's secretary of state. Her father, Lars, held a seat in the state legislature for 20 years and mounted a heartbreaking run for governor in 1986 -- a post he lost by 11,000 votes. Commentators and journalists both see Stephanie's run as the next step in a growing political dynasty.
"Growing up in a family committed to public service instilled in me at an early age a desire to follow in the same path," Herseth says of her family.
"The Herseths are Brown County Kennedys," Peter Harriman wrote in a Sept. 22 profile of the candidate in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.
But before she could run in South Dakota, she had to leave the Mount Rushmore State to achieve professional success.
Herseth left the state in 1989 to attend Georgetown University where she graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She then attended the renowned Georgetown University Law Center. After graduation, she became one of the youngest members of the faculty at Georgetown and worked a major firm in the capital.
In his profile, Harriman says the need to leave South Dakota to excel is not unique to Herseth.
"Here lies the central tension of Herseth's public life, an experience familiar to other bright products of South Dakota," Harriman wrote. "It is the pull between a drive for high achievement -- accomplishments in academic and professional worlds largely unadorned with frivolity -- and an uncomplicated delight in life, evident when she is back in the miniscule burg of Houghton."
Despite her work in Washington, Herseth appears never to have lost her focus on South Dakota. She is a member of the state bar and returned to the state to work with a U.S. district court judge in Aberdeen and Pierre. She resettled in Aberdeen.
Herseth, even while in the nation's capital, had been examining ways in which to return to her home state and get involved in politics. Her father was reportedly considering a run for the open governor's seat and Herseth considered coming home to work on his campaign.
But following conversations with colleagues, including Linda Daschle, the Senate majority leader's wife, Herseth decided to mount a campaign of her own. Both Daschles backed the idea.
"She has so much going for her," Sen. Tom Daschle told the Argus Ledger. "People in Washington who see her for the first time are very struck by her presence, her ability to win people over in very little time... There is a definite buzz around her."
In almost every interview, she discusses how much she respects Gov. Janklow. Instead of criticizing Janklow, she has focused on the idea of serving as a voice for younger South Dakotans and has paid attention to economic, health, agricultural and energy issues.
--By Lee Banville, Online NewsHour