Smart Politics is running a series of election profiles of all the Upper Midwestern U.S. Senate and U.S. House races leading up to the November 4th elections. The series will culminate with Smart Politics’ official projections. The first in the series is South Dakota’s at-large U.S. House race.

Candidates:
Democrat: Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (3-term incumbent)
Republican: Chris Lien

District Geography: This is an at-large seat, encompassing the entire state of South Dakota.

History: Democrat Stephanie Herseth Sandlin won South Dakota’s at-large seat to the U.S. House of Representatives in a June 2004 special election. The special election was called to fill the seat vacated by Representative William Janklow who resigned in January of that year after being convicted of manslaughter for killing a motorcyclist with his automobile. Herseth edged Republican nominee Larry Diedrich by just two points (approximately 3,000 votes). The two candidates squared off again in November 2004, with Herseth winning by 7.5 points. In 2006, Herseth handily won her third term with a 39.8-point victory over Bruce Whalen.

Democrats won the first seven at-large races when the number of South Dakota’s representatives dropped from two to one in 1982. Since statehood, Republicans have won 93 races, compared to just 25 for the Democrats, and 2 to the People’s Party.

Outlook: Herseth Sandlin is one of three Blue Dog Democrats in the Upper Midwest and is a member of the Agriculture Committee, the Resources Committee, the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. The top priorities of her campaign are ensuring quality and affordable health care, fighting for family farms and ranches, adequately funding public education, increasing benefits to veterans, and improving the lives of Native Americans.

Lien, a businessman, is running as an anti-Washington, D.C., anti-lobbyist outsider, with an emphasis on finding solutions to the nation’s rising health care costs and energy prices as well as addressing the issues of border security and illegal immigration.

Herseth’s family has a long political history in the state – her grandfather was governor of South Dakota, her grandmother was Secretary of State, and her father served in the state legislature for twenty years and was the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor in 1986. Herseth’s strong name recognition, her incumbency advantage, and her strong popularity should insure this Blue Dog Democrat remains in the US House.