Senator Tim Johnson, D-SD, won’t seek re-election. Johnson suffered a brain hemorrhage in 2006 and has been partially paralyzed, with affected speech, since then. He won a landslide victory in 2008 after winning squeakers in his previous two Senate elections, mainly because the Republican didn’t want to get wrapped up in a dirty campaign against a guy in a wheelchair, so they ran a nobody with no money, Joel Dykstra.
This seat was already in serious play because Mike Rounds, the former governor, has announced his candidacy. Rounds stupidly signed an abortion ban in 2006, which was overturned, but otherwise he’s considered a decent, well-liked governor.
The only Democrat who has a chance of winning this seat is former Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, who makes most of you bluer than blue because she’s a Blue Dog who opposed Obamacare. That was stupid and it didn’t help her keep her seat in 2010, but she’s still pretty well-known and well-liked in the state. Being well-liked and “independent” is the only way a Democrat wins in the ultra-red state South Dakota has become. There’s some talk of Johnson’s son Brendan, who’s the US Attorney, running, but he’s not that well known and has never run for office.
Though this is an off-year election, turnout in South Dakota is way over the national average – 62% turned out in the 2010 race between Herseth-Sandlin and Palinesque Kristi Noem. Mike Rounds is no Rick Berg, the tea party idiot that Heidi Heidekamp beat in 2012’s North Dakota race. Even so, South Dakota is a relatively cheap media market, and money spent on this race goes a long way. Given a choice between Herseth-Sandlin and Rounds, I’d vote for Stephanie once a day and twice on Sundays, even if she’ll end up being a Mary Landrieu or Claire McCaskill once she’s elected.