Washington (CNN) – Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin will avoid a primary fight for her South Dakota seat, sidestepping a potentially divisive Democratic battle with a top campaign official to President Obama.
Steve Hildebrand told CNN last week he was seriously considering challenging Herseth Sandlin if she voted against health care reform or if the vote was close.
Herseth Sandlin did vote against the bill, which passed late Sunday evening by a 219 to 212 margin. But Hildebrand said Monday morning that the margin of victory was wide enough, and that Democratic leaders could have called in more Democratic votes but chose to allow some lawmakers to oppose the measure because of "their own politics."
"I am not going to run," Hildebrand, Obama's deputy national campaign manager in 2008, said in an interview. "I made a commitment to myself and to others that if we lost the health care battle because of Stephanie Herseth's opposition that I would have challenged her in the primary. Even though she voted no, it passed. I will continue to encourage her to support progressive legislation, and I will encourage others to use their voice loudly in South Dakota to move her votes into the Democratic column."
Hildebrand, a liberal, is often at odds politically with Herseth Sandlin, a leader in the conservative "Blue Dog" coalition.
Hildebrand said he received strong support for a potential bid from within his state as well as Democrats nationwide. A White House official did contact him, Hildebrand said, but only to ask "was I serious."
Washington (CNN) - Senior Obama campaign official Steve Hildebrand is eyeing a Democratic primary challenge to South Dakota Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a decision he said hinges largely on whether she votes against health care reform later this week.
Hildebrand, deputy national campaign manager for Obama's presidential campaign, told CNN in an exclusive interview that he has been frustrated with Herseth Sandlin's voting record for some time, especially her decision to oppose the House health care reform bill in November. The House is expected to vote again on the issue later this week and a Herseth Sandlin spokesperson has said she plans to vote no again.
"I want to see how she votes on health care," Hildebrand said. "If the vote is very, very close and we lose it or come close to losing it, I will take a serious look at challenging her."
"She is on the wrong side of history," he added.
A Herseth Sandlin spokesman declined to comment on the potential primary challenge.
Hildebrand said he has not spoken to the White House about a potential run, nor has he reached out to Sen. Tim Johnson, D-South Dakota, or former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota. Hildebrand, a close political advisor to Johnson and Daschle, said if he decides to run he will have a "conversation with them."