(Part of UPI's Special Report on Election 2002)
PIERRE, S.D. (UPI) -- Democrat Stephanie Herseth notes Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle was a year younger than she is when South Dakota voters first sent him to Washington.
And the 31-year-old first-time candidate is hoping voters will opt for the younger generation again in her bid to best Republican Gov. Bill Janklow, 63, in the race for South Dakota's only seat in the House. The seat is held by Republican Rep. John Thune, who is running for Senate.
Dr. Robert Burns, who heads the department of political science at South Dakota State University, echoed the sentiment, saying South Dakota has a history of sending youth to Congress.
"Governor Janklow has more negatives. He's been governor for 16 years. You do accumulate negatives over time as you serve in office," Burns said, noting, however, Janklow enjoys a 7- or 8-point lead over Herseth in a recent poll by the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. "But it's not 50 percent yet, so there's still that undecided vote that can make a difference."
A poll of 505 likely voters conducted July 30-Aug. 1 for KELO-TV gave Janklow 46 percent to 45 percent for Herseth with 10 percent undecided. The margin of error was 4.4 percentage points. A Mason-Dixon poll conducted Sept. 16-19 gave Janklow 47 percent to 40 percent for Herseth.
Herseth is no political neophyte. Her father was a politician. So was her grandfather, a former governor of South Dakota.
Janklow, who got into the House race to keep former Sen. Larry Pressler from heading back to Washington, is a political maverick whose GOP credentials are at odds with some of his positions.
He is a fiscal conservative who, nevertheless, believes in an active government.
"He really has put the machinery of state government to work addressing the issues. He's not a political conservative who believes the government should be passive and inactive," Burns said.
Burns said Janklow is not out to conquer Washington.
"He has been a sharp critic of Washington and the gridlock. ... He is looking more toward having a link to the White House than eventually becoming a leader of the Republicans in the U.S. House. He would accept the position of a back bencher as long as he enjoyed access to the White House," Burns said.
"He would still be able to provide constituent services and constituent services are as or more important that lawmaking itself."
Janklow, who dropped out of high school because of an assault charge and joined the Marines at age 16, disparages Washington and the way the federal government thinks.
"First you help people. Then you figure out where to get the money," he told a recent stockgrowers meeting in Spearfish. "They have it backwards in Washington."
Janklow was first elected governor in 1978 and re-elected in 1982. After returning to private life for eight years, he sought a third term in 1994.
"I don't have to explain who I am or what I am," he said.
For Herseth, that's a problem, but she has refused to engage in negative campaigning, preferring instead, she said, to let people get to know her better.
Much of Herseth's campaign has revolved around the issue of health care.
"Unless we do something, time and time again, this is going to be an issue that probably comes first and foremost in some of your contract negotiations," Herseth told a meeting of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal employees.
Janklow has stressed water issues, criticizing federal management of the Missouri River.
It was the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that convinced Janklow to run for Congress.
"My five grandkids are worth fighting for and your kids and grandkids are worth fighting for, too," he has said.
Both candidates want to see change in Iraq. Janklow, whose father was a Nuremberg prosecutor, said the United States' hands shouldn't be tied by the United Nations. Herseth said the United States shouldn't go it alone but rather should "flex our muscle" to persuade the United Nations to pass a new resolution.
(By Marcella S. Kreiter, UPI Regional Editor, Chicago)