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1980s politics: The players

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The Daily Republic
1980s politics: The players
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301
Tom Daschle

In 1980, the 32-year-old Democrat had won re-election to a second term in the U.S. House, representing eastern South Dakota. Republican Clint Roberts represented Western South Dakota in his first term. In 1982, those two would run against each other after district lines were redrawn in the wake of the 1980 Census and South Dakota was left with just one representative in the U.S. House. Daschle emerged the victor, with 51.6 percent of the vote.

After winning elections to the U.S. Senate in 1986 and 1992, he was chosen by his fellow Senate Democrats as Senate minority leader in 1994. He won election again in 1998. He held a leadership post, alternating between minority leader and majority leader, until his defeat by Republican John Thune in 2004. He is one of the longest serving Democratic Senate leaders in history.

He has continued work in Washington as a lobbyist, adviser to President Barack Obama and advocate for several issues, including health care reform.

Bill Janklow

In 1980, Republican Bill Janklow, age 40, was the state’s bold new governor in just his second year as the state’s chief executive. After serving two terms as governor and losing the 1986 Republican U.S.  primary, Janklow had no immediate political options and would work in the private sector as a lawyer and consultant until mounting his political comeback in the 1994 election. He served another two terms as South Dakota's governor, making him South Dakota's longest serving governor.

During his last year as governor, Janklow won election to South Dakota's lone U.S. House seat in 2002. He served in that office until resigning in January 2004 after he was convicted of manslaughter for the Aug. 16, 2003, traffic crash that killed Minnesotan Randy Scott.

Janklow returned to work as an attorney in 2006. He died of brain cancer Jan. 12, 2012.

Jim Abdnor

After serving as South Dakota's lieutenant governor from 1969 to 1971, Abdnor launched his congressional career. He won election to the U.S. House of Representatives four times and served in that office from 1973 to 1981.

He defeated incumbent three-term U.S. Sen. George McGovern in 1980 but would serve just one term as a U.S. senator, as he lost his 1986 re-election bid to Tom Daschle.

President Ronald Reagan appointed him administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, a job he held from 1987 to 1989.

Abdnor and McGovern became friends and often took in baseball games in Sioux Falls and watched sports on television together.

Abdnor died May 16, 2012. McGovern died Oct. 21, 2012.

Tim Johnson

The Vermillion attorney served in the South Dakota Legislature from 1979 through his election to the U.S. House in 1986. That victory launched a 28-year congressional career. After 10 years in the U.S. House, Johnson narrowly defeated Republican Sen. Larry Pressler in 1996 and, after three terms, plans to retire at the end of 2014.

He rose to serve as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee  and is the 20th most senior member of the U.S. Senate.

George Mickelson

After serving in the South Dakota House of Representatives from 1975 to 1980 and as speaker of the house those last two years, the Brookings attorney returned to politics in his successful bid to become governor in 1986.

Mickelson followed in the footsteps of his father, George T. Mickelson, who served in the Legislature and as governor from 1947 to 1951.

Mickelson won re-election in 1990. South Dakotans mourned Mickelson's death in a plane crash in April 1993. His lieutenant governor, Walter Dale Miller, served as governor for the remainder of his term.

Lars Herseth

The son of Gov. Ralph Herseth (1959-1961) began his political career in the South Dakota House of Representatives in 1975 and served there a decade before launching his gubernatorial bid in the 1986 election. He entered that race after serving as House Minority Leader since 1979.

After his narrow loss to Mickelson in 1986, Herseth returned to the Legislature, this time in the Senate, serving from 1989 to 1996. He served as the Senate's president pro tempore from 1993 to 1994, when Democrats briefly held a majority.

He continues to farm in Brown County and advises his daughter, former U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.

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