The youngest woman in Congress, Herseth Sandlin, 39, is the scion of a South Dakota civic dynasty. Since being elected in 2004, the Democrat has started a family and been mentioned as a potential U.S. President. But first she faces a tough race against Kristi Noem.
Who is your political hero/inspiration?
My grandmother had great influence on me. She was secretary of state in the 1970's, and that's when I was born. She showed me the importance of public service, and she was admired by people regardless of their political party.
What's your go-to political blog?
I would probably say the one that I go to the most is the Argus-Leader [a newspaper in Sioux Falls, S.D.] political blog. ... I feel old by you asking me that question. It's like asking "So what's the song you most recently downloaded onto your iPod?"
If you weren't working in politics, what would you be doing?
Teaching. Before I had decided to get into politics, I was laying the groundwork to have a career in the law, but that was really to lay the foundation to teach, either at the college level or law school level after my federal clerkships. I love the classroom.
What's the most overlooked issue facing America these days?
Pockets of severe poverty in Indian country that exist in our country that a lot of people aren't aware of. I represent nine sovereign Sioux tribes. In South Dakota, some of the tribes are in the most remote, rural areas of the country. They lack essential infrastructure. Some communities don't even have clean drinking water. We have among the highest rates of teen suicide. ... In terms of the nation's consciousness, I just don't think people are aware of the magnitude of the crisis. It's overwhelming.
Where do you see yourself professionally in five years?
I hope to continue to be serving South Dakota in Congress. And, personally, keeping up with the little boy who will just be starting school.
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