Giago scraps Senate race, backs Daschle
David Kranz
Argus Leader

Tim Giago has decided to end his independent candidacy for the U.S. Senate and throw his support to Democratic incumbent Tom Daschle.

Giago, publisher of the Lakota Journal, met with Daschle at a Rapid City restaurant Saturday and ironed out differences.

"I told him I have accomplished what I set out to do, get the important Indian issues on the table," Giago said. "We shook hands and he gave me his word of honor that he would actively pursue and is already pursuing the things we talked about."

Daschle, running for a fourth term in the Senate, will face Republican challenger John Thune in the Nov. 2 election.

"I will be campaigning for him, go anywhere he wants me to go," Giago said.

One of the requests of Daschle was attendance at an August meeting in the Black Hills to discuss Native American issues with tribal leaders.

"I believe we need an open dialogue to discuss these problems and come up with solutions," Giago said.

Daschle responded to Giago's decision during a Washington, D.C., press conference.

"I've admired - respected - Tim Giago a great deal," Daschle said. "He has been a leader, a journalist, an advocate for Native American issues that I think has made an extraordinary impact not only in South Dakota but around the country, and I look forward to working with him and I think that for a lot of reasons this has been a very positive development."

Thune's campaign heralded Giago's entry into the race as a significant development, but Dick Wadhams, Thune's campaign manager, said he is not disappointed by his exit.

"Even with his departure, that discontent persists. You can see that from John's response on the reservation," Wadhams said.

The Native American concerns expressed to Thune are what Wadhams characterizes as "a reflection on the failure of federal policies on the reservation."

He said Daschle is the embodiment of that situation.

"That is why you have a young, dynamic activist such as Bruce Whalen and a high-profile person such as Russell Means openly supporting John Thune. You can't ignore the significance of that kind of support," Wadhams said.

Giago initiated the meeting between the two candidates, said Dan Pfeiffer, Daschle's communications director.

"It is obviously very gratifying that Tim Giago believes in Senator Daschle and is willing to work with him on issues like health care, economic development and sovereignty," Pfeiffer said. "Those are some of the many issues they talked about."

Continuing to work on those issues and joining the Black Hills meeting was the extent of Daschle's agreement with Giago, Pfeiffer said.

Pfeiffer said Daschle has long been out front promoting Native American issues and this complements that work.

Giago has been critical of Daschle for his opposition to turning over some Black Hills land to the Native Americans and for his siding with former Gov. Bill Janklow on land mitigation issues.

That led him to announce a primary bid against Daschle earlier this year. But Giago ended that campaign and opted for the general election because he wanted a broader forum for the discussion.

The shift in the campaign landscape helps Daschle, said Bob Burns, political science professor at South Dakota State University.

"On the agreement they may have reached, it appears that Senator Daschle is willing to use his office to create a forum for statewide discussion of those issues important to the Native American population," Burns said.

"He doesn't seem to have committed himself to work for the return of the Black Hills. That door seems to have been closed. But he is interested in creating a forum for open discussion."

Giago and Daschle have not discussed all of the talking points that will be part of future discussions, but Burns said some subjects are inevitable.

"Indian Health Service, a host of social issues challenging the Indian population and then education issues," he said. "There are certainly many and it's important that they be addressed."


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