Democrats hope tomorrow's special election in South Dakota will switch the state's only House seat to Democratic hands. The seat became vacant in January when William J. Janklow, the former Republican governor, resigned after he was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and had to go to prison.

Stephanie Herseth, the Democrat whom Janklow defeated in 2002, is leading Republican Larry Diedrich in recent polls. If Herseth wins, it will be the second House seat Democrats will have picked up in special elections this year.

The race has not been without conflict. Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) said at a Herseth rally last week that a victory by her would send a message to the "Taliban wing" of the Republican Party, the Associated Press reported, a remark that drew criticism from Diedrich and other Republicans. And Diedrich has run ads accusing Herseth of supporting cuts in Social Security.

Diedrich, a farmer and former state senator, has been boosted by appearances in the state by first lady Laura Bush and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (Ill.).

South Dakota has about 48,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats, and George W. Bush carried the state with about 60 percent of the vote four years ago. But both of its senators -- Johnson and Thomas A. Daschle -- are Democrats.

Regardless of the outcome of the special election, Herseth and Diedrich are expected to face each other again in November's election for a full term.

Libertarians Select Badnarik for President

Michael Badnarik, a computer programmer from Texas and a teacher of constitutional law, won the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination yesterday.

Badnarik, 49, of Austin, defeated former Hollywood movie producer Aaron Russo on the convention's third ballot, after former radio host Gary Nolan, who was eliminated on the second ballot, endorsed Badnarik, the Associated Press reported.

"If I can win the nomination, there's no reason I can't win this election," Badnarik said at the Atlanta convention, which drew more than 800 delegates.

The Libertarian Party, formed in 1971, stresses the rights of individuals and a foreign policy of noninterference. It claims nearly 600 elected officials nationwide, almost entirely in city or county positions, and has been on the presidential ballot in all 50 states for the past three elections.