As late as Feb. 22 Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin D-SD, was still "undecided" about final health care reform legislation, although she had already voted against the House bill last fall.

It is still my hope that we will be able to find a bipartisan way forward to address health care reform, because it is such an urgent priority for South Dakota and the nation.

Unless she changes her mind, she may be facing an opponent in the South Dakota Democratic primary June 8.  While Republican John Thune hasn't had a Democratic challenger come forward for the fall election, Herseth Sandlin was facing the winner of a field of Republican challengers.  Now she has a Democratic challenger poised to run in a primary first.

Despite her press release from Feb. quoted above, it will come as no surprise that Herseth Sandlin has officially come out with her opposition vote.

...four additional rank-and-file Democrats have come out against the Obama administration's signature domestic priority...Reps. Ben Chandler of Kentucky, Luiz Gutierrez of Illinois, Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin of South Dakota and Heath Shuler of North Carolina say they will vote against their party's health care plan, which may be headed to a final vote late next week.

Enter Steve Hildebrand, a Mitchell, SD native who now runs a political consulting firm in Sioux Falls, SD. Hildebrand was the deputy national campaign director for Obama's presidential campaign.  In 2004 he was campaign manager for Daschle's re-election effort against GOP star John Thune. He was also campaign manager for Tim Johnson's winning re-election campaign in 2002 and Al Gore's 2000 Iowa Caucus victory. He has served as Executive Director of the South Dakota and Minnesota Democratic Parties and Political Director of Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

"I want to see how she votes on health care," Hildebrand said. "If the vote is very, very close and we lose it or come close to losing it, I will take a seriously look at challenging her." "She is on the wrong side of history," he added.

Madville Times blog in November expressed what many disgruntled South Dakotans felt about SHS:

It's not health care alone that has me looking for other options. Credit card reform, student loan reform, climate change/ACESA, now health care reform...  The Republicans are not our only option. We do have a primary... potentially a very interesting primary, now that we've opened the door to independents. Perhaps now is the perfect time to have a referendum on this issue. Let's have a public conversation on what the South Dakota Democratic Party is about. Are we simply the permanent loyal opposition, comic relief in a state where the only Dems who survive in office are those who play to a center-right that we tell ourselves will never change? Or are we a party of leaders who acknowledge and understand our state's conservative history but refuse to be bound by it? Do we continue to compromise and apologize for being Democrats, or do we run a candidate who represents "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party"?

The primary is June 8. The filing deadline is rapidly approaching. Hildebrand said he would only accept contributions of $100 or less from South Dakotans.

Whether Hildebrand, openly gay, would have a chance to win election in a red state is open to speculation. But it would make for some interesting debate, where that has been lacking in a field of mostly conservative tea-party rhethoric.

Originally posted to meralda on Tue Mar 16, 2010 at 03:46 PM PDT.

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