Challenging Herseth on Nov. 7 will be Bruce Whalen, an American Indian who is the GOP chairman in Shannon County, which includes the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and is among the poorest places in the nation.
Whalen's notoriety is virtually nil elsewhere in South Dakota
even was outvoted by 2-1 margins on his
home turf two years ago by two Democrats seeking re-election to the state House of Representatives.
Indians lean markedly Democrat in this state.In fact, Democrats in Shannon County number 8,442 compared to 3,362 Republicans.Statewide, however, GOP
voters total 232,000 and registered Democrats number 185,000.
Tough fightWith his largely unknown status as a candidate, Whalen, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, faces a tough fight for a variety of reasons:
_ South Dakota
is about 90 percent white, and Indian candidates fare poorly in off-reservation areas.South Dakota
has nine Indian reservations, and while Whalen
may get many Indian votes, many Indians do not bother to vote._ Whalen has little money for his campaign, although state GOP Chairman Randy Frederick said the party will help.
And if those odds against Whalen
aren't enough, there's also the fact that the re-election rate of U.S. House members is more than 90 percent.
...Whalen, 44, who resigned several weeks ago from his job as coordinator of the Oglala Tribe's Judiciary Committee, insists Herseth can be beaten.He
does not consider himself a sacrificial lamb for the state GOP
"We're going to move this campaign forward for a win," Whalen
said during a recent campaign stop.
"We're not going into this blindly.We know that we have a lot of work to do," he
Tackling an incumbent is not easy, and Whalen
has taken a bold move, Frederick said.
In the state, Republicans have a better record on taxes, improving education and are more closely aligned with the public on the issue of abortion, Whalen
noted that he
and Herseth, 35, disagree on a measure passed by this year's Legislature that would ban most abortions in South Dakota
favors the proposal, which may be put on the fall ballot by opponents if they have gathered enough signatures.
The abortion measure has drawn nationwide attention to South Dakota
from those on both sides of the issue.
is going to be under a microscope because of that, and I'm certain it's going to have some effect on the House race," Whalen
advantage lies in the Republican Party's strength in South Dakota
, traditionally a well-oiled, highly organized political machine.
"I expect abundant support from the party," he
said, adding that his
campaign will stress family values, permanent tax cuts and limited federal government.
Frederick said Whalen
will be a good candidate, and the GOP
will help finance his campaign.
The state GOP
boss acknowledged Whalen
does not have the same name recognition as Herseth.
does not have that luxury at this point in time," Frederick said.
The fact that Whalen
has little notoriety does not necessarily mean the state GOP
has thrown in the towel, Smith said.
Even if Whalen
does not win, the state GOP
may benefit from his
grew up in Pine Ridge but moved to Utah as a teen.He
returned to South Dakota
in 1999 to raise a family.He
wife, Carol, have three children.Should Whalen win, he would become the second Indian House member in state history.
While victory by Whalen
would be another important political milestone for state Indians, Herseth also can claim some historical lore.By winning in 2004, she
became the first South Dakota woman to claim a full term in Congress since statehood in 1889.