PIERRE, S.D. — The Republican and Democratic candidates for South Dakota's lone U.S. House seat on Wednesday again accused each other of making unfair attacks as they met in their final debate of the campaign.
In a debate broadcast statewide from Sioux Falls by KELO-TV, Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin said Republican challenger Kristi Noem has repeatedly misrepresented her record and misstated facts. Noem countered that Herseth Sandlin has run attack ads about her bad driving record to deflect attention from the congresswoman's record in Washington.
Recent polls show Noem and Herseth Sandlin are locked in a tight race, with a third candidate, independent B. Thomas Marking, far behind. The race is seen as key in the parties' fight for control of the House.
Noem claimed that after Herseth Sandlin voted against the health care bill, the congresswoman agreed not to seek the law's repeal so a Rapid City doctor would not challenge her in a Democratic primary.
Herseth Sandlin said Congress is not likely to repeal the entire law, so she wants to work to save the good provisions and repeal the bad parts of the measure.
"There was no deal. That's outrageous," Herseth Sandlin responded.
Herseth Sandlin also took issue with Noem's claim that the congresswoman didn't hold any meetings on the federal health care overhaul before the law passed.
"The details matter here. The facts matter," Herseth Sandlin said. "Once again we see a distortion of the truth about my positions, my work for South Dakota and a direct attack on my integrity."
Noem said her statements and television ads throughout the campaign have been accurate.
"I wouldn't say it if it wasn't fact, if it wasn't true," Noem said.
Marking said South Dakotans should elect him to the House because he could avoid the partisan fighting displayed by Herseth Sandlin and Noem.
Noem was questioned about her driving record, which included 20 speeding tickets and three stop-sign violations. She failed to appear in court six times and had two warrants issued for her arrest when she failed to pay fines.
Noem said she has apologized, has paid all the tickets and has pledged to be a better driver.
Herseth Sandlin said Noem's driving record was relevant because it showed the Republicans' lack of judgment and responsibility.
Noem said Herseth Sandlin has "chosen instead to come after me personally and negatively to try not to talk about what's been going on in Washington."
She also pointed out that Herseth Sandlin was fined for violating federal election laws in 2003. Herseth Sandlin's campaign staff has said the violation was minor.
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