ANALYSIS: 48 percent isn’t enough this time in US House raceWhat happened to former U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin’s popularity remains one of the great mysteries of South Dakota politics.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
What happened to former U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin’s popularity remains one of the great mysteries of South Dakota politics.
After receiving 256,041 votes in 2008, approximately 40 percent of her support simply vanished in 2010. Herseth Sandlin, a Democrat, polled just 146,589 votes in losing to Republican Kristi Noem.
Noem couldn’t get to a true majority, either. Her 153,703 votes won the race but were only 48 percent of the ballots cast in their race.
Thomas Marking received 19,134 votes. His 6 percent was unusually high for an independent candidate in a South Dakota congressional race.
Noem’s support was concentrated west of the James River valley. Her margin over Herseth Sandlin was about 8,000 votes in Pennington County and only about 7,100 votes statewide.
Her challenger this year, Matt Varilek, comfortably won the Democratic nomination in June, defeating Minnehaha County Commission member Jeff Barth in a runaway, 21,759 to 8,494.
Facing Noem is Varilek’s first big test. And he has one big number on his side: The 52 percent who didn’t vote for Noem in 2010. This time, it’s just a two-candidate contest.