Next week’s scheduled visit to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation by U.S. Senator and former funnyman Al Frank has nothing to do Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin’s re-election campaign.
At least, so says Herseth Shandlin, who spoke with Kevin Woster of the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal:
Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D. (Rapid City Journal)
Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., said she invited Franken, D-Minn., who sits on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, to meet with officials of the Oglala Sioux Tribe in Pine Ridge on Aug. 7 because he is knowledgeable and influential on Native American issues and is in a position to help Native people.
Housing is one of the key issues Franken will discuss with officials while at Pine Ridge, Herseth Sandlin said.
Herseth Sandlin tells Woster that “I’m worried about my constituents. And I have constituents in Indian Country who are on waiting lists as far as the eye can see for quality, safe housing.” She tells him she hasn’t given a thought as to whether the visit could help her campaign.
But Betty Smith, a professor of political science at University of South Dakota in Vermillion, tells Woster that Franken’s visit could help shore up Herseth Sandlin’s standing among liberal constituents angered by her vote against health care reform.
And, as Smith reminds us, “the Native American vote in this state can be very important in a close election.”
National attention focused on Pine Ridge in 2002, when the votes from Shannon County, where the reservation is located, decided the U.S. Senate race in favor of Democrat Tim Johnson over Republican John Thune. Thune went on to defeat Democrat Tom Daschle two years later.