[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/22/art.hildebrand3.hil.jpg caption =" Steve Hildebrand will not challenge South Dakota Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin in a primary."]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."