Herseth Sandlin, Johnson will return to Capitol Hill By David Lias There was little doubt that Tim Johnson, Vermillion's hometown boy, would be returned to the U.S. Senate by Clay County voters Tuesday. Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin also won another term in the U.S. House with little difficulty, both county-wide and across the state. Johnson received 75 percent of the vote in Clay County, defeating Republican challenger Joel Dykstra 4,637-1,545 in Clay County. Herseth Sandlin similarly won re-election by a wide margin. She received slightly more than 78 percent of the vote, defeating challenger Chris Lien 4,793-1,330 in Clay County. Those figures perhaps demonstrate the ease with which a Democratic candidate can garner votes in Clay County. Statewide, both Johnson and Herseth Sandlin won by significant margins, but they weren't as large as in Clay County. With 756 of 799 precincts reporting Tuesday night, Johnson was able to declare victory, holding a 62.5 to 37.5 percent lead over Dykstra. At the same moment, Herseth Sandlin was clearly cruising to her fourth victory in her Congressional career since winning the seat in a special election in 2004. She led with approximately 68 percent of the vote. In a press release issued Wednesday, Johnson indicated he is looking forward to returning to work in Washington, DC with a new Democratic president and new opportunities in the Senate. Congress will come into session later this month for reorganization when much more will be known about the overall shape and leadership that will come into power this January. "There is obviously great hope for the new president of the United States. The overwhelming mandate received by President-elect Obama highlights the desire in our country for a new direction. This is time for unity and action," Johnson said. "As a nation and as your representatives, we all must come together to get the job done. We face challenging times, from our economy to our national security to providing affordable health care to moving toward 21st century energy solutions. "These priorities must be addressed in addition to a mounting budget deficit. I will continue to use my seniority to be a voice for the people of South Dakota on these issues. Now that election day is behind us, the tough work begins," he said. Herseth Sandlin called her win "a great victory" but also said she will continue with the kind of bipartisan congressional work that South Dakota voters expect. "I bring a healthy dose of South Dakota common sense to Congress, of wanting to move forward rather than have stalemates," she told the Rapid City Journal Tuesday. "I think, clearly, that Republicans and Independents are trusting me more, and I'm overcoming some of the skepticism that perhaps some voters had of me when I was first running." Herseth Sandlin lost her first congressional race to formidable Republican Gov. Bill Janklow in 2002. But she came back in a competitive campaign to beat Republican Larry Diedrich in a special election in June 2004 for the seat after Janklow was convicted of vehicular manslaughter. She beat Diedrich again in the fall for her first full House term. Herseth Sandlin praised Lien for having the courage to take on a demanding statewide campaign and run it cleanly. "I appreciate the kind of campaign he ran, and that the tone stayed positive and focused on the issues," she said.