One of the principal facts of South Dakota politics over the past twenty-five years has been the enduring popularity of Bill Janklow, currently the state’s lone Congressional representative. But Janklow’s career appears to be over; he has been charged with second degree manslaughter in connection with a fatal car accident in rural South Dakota. Janklow ran a stop sign while driving 70 or 75 mph in a 55 mph zone and collided with a motorcycle, the driver of which was killed.
There is a lot of history here. Janklow has a terrible driving record. He has received numerous speeding tickets over the years, many of them while driving his own motorcycle. His propensity to ignore traffic laws contributed to his populist, maverick image. But now that he has caused a fatal accident, his record is cast in a different light.
I’m no expert in South Dakota criminal law, but it appears likely that Janklow may go to jail. His political career seems clearly over, with the only question being whether he will be able to serve out his term.
Janklow’s demise eliminates one of the Republican Party’s most talented Midwestern vote-getters. It clears the way for John Thune to oppose Tom Daschle when Daschle runs for re-election next year. (Actually, Daschle is already running; well over a year before the election, recognizing that he is in trouble, he is blanketing the air waves with campaign ads.)
South Dakota Politics has had good coverage of the accident, for those looking for more information.
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