My home state of South Dakota is not in the news much. Unless Sen. Daschle (D) is running his mouth off again or the boys in the B-1’s from out by Rapid City are bombing Saddam, one doesn’t hear much about the Mount Rushmore state. All that changed a couple of weeks ago, however, when our lone Congressman, Bill Janklow (R), hit and killed a man riding a motorcycle in a terrible traffic accident.

Soon after the collision, it was found that Janklow was driving 71 mph in a 55 zone. Not only that, but he ran a stop sign just before striking Minnesotan Randy Scott. Needless to say, those are not good circumstances, and Janklow is being charged with second-degree manslaughter. Under South Dakota law, the crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Lesser charges of reckless driving, failing to stop and speeding are also pending.

Before serving in Congress, Janklow was governor from 1979-1987 and 1994-2003. During his first term, “Wild Bill” earned a reputation for speeding. In fact, Janklow was warned twice that he could lose his driver’s license because of the tickets he’d racked up. From 1990-1994, he was cited 12 times for speeding, but has not been since. Perhaps that’s a perk for becoming governor again.

Quite possibly South Dakota’s most famous and popular politician ever, Janklow was elected to his first statewide office, attorney general, in 1974. While serving in the post, his “cowboy” style won him fame. He went immediately to the scene of the 1975 FBI agent slayings in Oglala, and was gun slinging alongside those who responded with weapons when a family was taken hostage in the state capital.

This “take no prisoners” style vaulted Janklow to an unprecedented four terms as governor, winning with margins as high as 71 and 64 percent. Rushing onto the scene like Batman at floods, fires and other state disasters to personally direct relief efforts, the governor was well-known as a man of the people.

When he wasn’t off saving the state, Janklow got things done from the capital. Not content to have convicts pick up trash on the highway, the governor sent hordes of state prisoners to help with emergencies, wire every one of the state’s schools for the Internet and maintain public lands and buildings. He also slashed property taxes, kept the state income tax free and increased the government’s take on video lottery profits.

Janklow’s renegade manner has made him his share of enemies, but many of his supporters are behind him no matter what. Signs reading “We still love you, Bill” were held outside a courtroom in Flandreau where a preliminary hearing was scheduled for Sept. 25 and 26. Janklow was released on his own recognizance and has not been arrested.

The congressman, who suffered a broken wrist and head injuries in the accident, plans on returning to the House as soon as possible. His son says that there has been absolutely no talk of resignation, and that Janklow plans on heading back to Washington as soon as possible.

A recent poll of South Dakota voters indicates that almost three-fourths of the people with opinions say Janklow should not resign now. Only Ralph Nader is calling for him to do so, and he wasn’t even on the 2000 ballot in South Dakota. Meanwhile, Sen. Daschle says that, “Bill Janklow has been a dear friend of mine for many years, and he remains that today.”

According to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, “House leaders . in contact with Janklow [say] that the congressman’s future is up to him.” South Dakotans are going to allow due process to work it course, and see what happens from there. A plea bargain might reduce the charge, or Janklow might not even be convicted of the manslaughter – somewhat difficult to prove without the presence of drugs or alcohol. The fact that Scott was not wearing a helmet might affect the verdict as well.

Any calls for Janklow to resign now are premature, and the House is almost assuredly not going to take any formal action against him without a conviction. The best thing now is to let the man return to his job, await the trial and pray for Randy Scott’s family and friends as well as a quick return to Janklow’s health. Janklow is a living legend in South Dakota, and we’d like to keep him that way. Besides, who among us can honestly say they’ve never gone a little too fast on the highway or run a stop sign?

Eric Rodawig is a freshman in the College.

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