A Grand Old Party Keynote speakers at the Clay County Lincoln Day Dinner in Vermillion Sept. 16 were Kimberley Thune, wife of U.S. Senate candidate John Thune, and U.S. House candidate Larry Diedrich. A host of other candidates also were in attendance, including PUC candidate Dusty Johnson, District 17 Rep. Donna Schafer, Jamie Boomgarden, candidate for District 17 S.D. House, and Judy Clark, candidate for District 17 S.D. Senate. by David Lias Politics was the main course � and it was served piping hot to an enthusiastic audience Thursday, Sept. 16, at the Clay County Lincoln Day Dinner at the Valiant Vineyards Winery in Vermillion.
Keynote speakers were Republican U.S. House candidate Larry Diedrich, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Stephanie Herseth; and Kimberley Thune, wife of former Congressman John Thune, who hopes to unseat Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle in a race that's being closely watched nationwide.
"I am so pleased to be on the ballot with people of character like George W. Bush and John Thune," Diedrich said.
Time and again, the audience responded with loud applause.
"I am so lucky," he said. "I live in the very same house I grew up in. My wife and I have raised an absolutely beautiful family," said the Elkton farmer. He and his wife, Jackie, still live on and operate the family farm, raising four children and two foster children.
Diedrich said his professional experiences separate him from his opponent.
"I have had a chance to have experiences here in this state that are so important for someone who wants to serve in Congress," he said.
He has served as president of the South Dakota Soybean Association, and served on the board of the National Soybean Association. In 1994, he was elected president of that organization, and led trade missions to Mexico, China, the European Union and former Soviet Union, and in turn brought trade delegations from other countries to South Dakota.
Diedrich was elected to the S.D. House of Representatives in 1996, and in 2000, was elected to the S.D. Senate where he was chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
"There are two different types of people serving in Congress," he said. "One type can be called professional politicians. The second group, made up of people who raised families and been involved in business, are called public servants. And that's what my campaign is all about.
"Our founders designed this country to have all walks of life represented in Washington, DC," Diedrich said. "Today, we only have 16 farmers in Congress. I think it's important in South Dakota to send a message to Washington."
A tough decision
John and Kimberley Thune had barely caught their breath from the rigors of their 2000 Senate campaign challenging Tim Johnson when they had to consider hitting the trail once again.
"When we decided to do this (challenge Sen. Daschle), it was tough," Kimberley Thune told local Republicans. "But we felt this election was very, very important not only for South Dakota, but for our nation.
"I believe we want someone in the U.S. Senate who has the same principles and values as the people of South Dakota, and that's John Thune," she said.
Thune said it is time to elect a senator who won't cater to the special interests of the Democratic Party, won't block judicial nominations and won't play political games.
"We want someone who is part of the solution, and not part of the problem," she said.
It is time, Thune said, to establish hope for young people in South Dakota. "They need to know they can stay in South Dakota because there are jobs and opportunies here. That is a priority of John's."
Kimberley Thune said her husband strongly supports the U.S. military, and will work hard to keep their morale high and equip them well to win the war on terror.
"Two years ago, we learned a hard lesson," she said. "We learned that every vote counts," she said. "Get out the vote on election day.
"I want to make sure on Nov. 3 I'm going to wake up and see Larry Diedrich as our next U.S. representative, Dusty Johnson as our new PUC commissioner, and John Thune as our new U.S. senator."