Daschle endorses Varilek in Democratic House contestSouth Dakota’s prominent Democrats are lining up behind U.S. House candidate Matt Varilek.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
South Dakota’s prominent Democrats are lining up behind U.S. House candidate Matt Varilek.
Former Sen. Tom Daschle endorsed Varilek, the candidate announced Tuesday. Sen. Tim Johnson announced his support for Varilek late last year.
“Years ago, I thanked Senator Daschle for the opportunity to serve on his staff,” Varilek said in an e-mail to supporters. “Today, I thank him again — this time for his advice, encouragement, and his generous $1,000 contribution to my campaign.”
Varilek is one of two announced Democratic candidates for the party’s nomination for the state’s lone U.S. House seat. Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth was the first to throw his hat into the ring, but he has not claimed any prominent endorsements and trails Varilek in fundraising as well. The incumbent, Republican Rep. Kristi Noem, is seeking re-election.
Daschle hired Varilek early in 2004 to work on South Dakota economic development issues. Varilek went on to work in a similar capacity for Johnson.
“I hired Matt in 2004 because I could see his passion for making our state a more prosperous place to live, work and raise a family,” Daschle said in the e-mail released by Varilek. “Matt still has that same passion, and I can tell you from experience that he’ll be an outstanding member of Congress.”
Varilek is a fourth-generation South Dakotan born in Yankton, and has roots in the Czech-American farming communities of rural Yankton and Bon Homme counties.
Before taking the post with Daschle, he spent four years as a market analyst at an energy commodities brokerage.
Daschle, an Aberdeen native, served eight years in the House and 18 in the Senate. He was one of the longest serving Senate Democratic leaders in history and the only one to serve twice as both majority and minority leader.
First elected to Congress in 1978, he served until he was beaten by John Thune in a hotly contested and high-spending race in 2004. Daschle has spent little time in South Dakota since then and said in a 2010 interview that he no longer closely followed South Dakota politics.