Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is part of a South Dakota political dynasty. Her grandfather was a popular governor, her grandmother secretary of state, her father a longtime legislator. Stephanie grew up on the family farm in north-central South Dakota before leaving for Georgetown, where she received both her undergraduate and law degrees. She initially ran for the seat in 2002, and against a popular figure, Bill Janklow, in a strong Republican year, she surprised many by giving Janklow a tough race all the way to November. She received around 45% of the vote.
After Janklow was forced to resign his seat, Herseth immediately became the frontrunner. Leery of back-to-back Democratic success stories following Ben Chandler's February 2004 victory, the Republicans dumped many millions of dollars in GOTV, attack ads, Republican superstar guest appearances, and mind games.
Herseth is a relatively controversial figure in the party and the state, as she is pro-choice but also has a strong NRA rating and supports the Iraq war and the Federal Marriage Amendment. But the blogosphere rallied around her, even as the numbers tightened, and were crucial in her eking out a victory of a few thousand votes in a June 1, 2004 special election.
For now, Herseth is the first woman since 1938 to represent South Dakota in Congress, and also makes South Dakota's Congressional delegation all-Democrat for the first time since 1937. She was re-elected in November, 2004, and won easily in 2006.
In 2007, Herseth married former U.S. Representative Max Sandlin. Sandlin is a former Congressman from Texas.