In South Dakota: Another Sarah Palin?
A New Republican Star Takes on a Tough Democratic Incumbent
Oct. 12, 2010 -- If money is any indication, the hottest Republican House candidate in the country is Kristi Noem. The 38-year-old rancher has raised more campaign cash than any Republican house challenger in the country.
Noem has raised $1.1 million over the past three months, about twice as much as her opponent, Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-SD). And that money will go a long way: South Dakota's media market is one of the least expensive in the country.
Noem may need the cash. Herseth-Sandlin is a moderate Democrat with a proven ability to win, and win big, in South Dakota. She decimated her Republican opponent in 2008 with nearly 70 percent of the vote, even as the state voted overwhelming against Barack Obama.
Herseth-Sandlin is an avid hunter and one of the top conservative Democrats in the House. She's also from a highly regarded South Dakota political family; her grandfather was a governor, her grandmother a South Dakota Secretary of State and her father a leader in the state legislature.
But Herseth-Sandlin has never faced a challenger like Kristi Noem. She's a rancher, a mother of three, and a staunch conservative who is running on a platform of slashing federal spending and repealing the new federal health care law. She's also an avid hunter known to hunt elk with a bow and arrow. Her political views and physical appearance have led some to label her "South Dakota's Sarah Palin."
At her ranch in Castlewood, S.D., Noem told ABC News she wanted no part of that label and balked at the idea of the former Alaskan Governor and Republican Vice-Presidential nominee hitting the campaign trail for her.
"We're going forward making sure we're focused on the people here at home," Noem told ABC News. "I want them to know who I am and what I believe we should be doing and should be accomplishing rather than focusing on somebody else from out of state."