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On December 9th, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) announced that 5 South Dakota Native American tribes will be receiving $1.3 million in grants to enhance public transit service on tribal lands:

“These funds will help tribal members stay connected and keep local economies growing,” said Chairman Johnson. “Reliable and accessible public transit is vital for many residents of Indian Country, and I will continue working to bring transportation options and economic opportunities to every part of South Dakota.” - Political News, 12/9/12
Johnson authored a transit bill earlier this year that would double funding for transit programs on Indian reservations and give tribal transit providers greater certainty for planning and capital improvements.  The transit bill passed through the Senate.  The funding comes from the Federal Transit Administration’s Tribal Transit Program.

The five tribes to be receiving the funding are the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Yankton Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe:

These transit agencies provide critical public transit services to a growing number of tribal members and the general public who rely on these rides to travel to employment, education, medical care and other services. - Political News, 12/9/12
As we saw this past election, Native Americans are an essential base for Democrats to win in states like Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.  It's important for Democrats to make them a priority in Washington D.C.  Plus some of their reservations need funding in order to thrive.  Johnson understands this perfectly.  

Johnson hasn't made his decision yet on whether or not to run for a fourth term against former Governor Mike "Abortion Ban" Rounds (R).  Expect that announcement to come next year.  But whether it's Johnson or if it's former Congressman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin or Johnson's son, U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, as the Democratic nominee, Native American turnout will be key to keeping this seat blue.  

Daily Kos community member, meralda, wrote an excellent diary about the upcoming Senate race in South Dakota and pointed at that as Governor, Mike Rounds was not as close of a friend and ally to Native American tribes as Johnson is:

For me, his delay in seeking a disaster declaration for aiding the SD reservations devasted by ice-storms and blizzards in Dec. 2009 and Jan. 2010, were especially hard to accept.  After filing the request in March 2010, the Presidential declaration followed and aid was given.  But the delay was tragic. - meralda's diary, 2014 Senate race - SD, 11/29/12
Here's the story meralda is referring to:

Unfortunately, there was a delayed response in the Governors office submitting the disaster declaration, for the Christmas blizzard that immobilized the entire state of South Dakota for several days. FEMA was in the field across South Dakota assessing damages, when the January ice storm and blizzard hit causing a crisis in many areas and devastating Cheyenne River Reservation. - NDN News, 3/10/10
meralda credits fellow Kossack Aji for helping make the delayed assistance a major issue and getting this great community to take action.  You may remember her diary from a little over two years ago:

Aji's diary is a terrific detailed analysis of Rounds delay to help South Dakota tribes during the Christmas blizzard.  But Aji really nails it in this section of her diary:


That's what this is about:  The state of South Dakota, under the auspices of the Rounds administration, does not want to spend any extra state money to get federal disaster assistance for the reservations.  

And now that private aid is pouring in, thanks in large part to the efforts of Kossacks over the last two weeks, the governor's office has the perfect excuse not to move forward with the federal disaster process.  Inadvertently, we may just have given him exactly what he wanted:  Time to wait out the weather and public sentiment.  (Not that we had a choice in the matter; lives were at risk.  But the fact that some folks are now in a better position thanks to private efforts should in no way excuse the state of South Dakota from its obligations to its citizens.) - Aji's diary, Why is S.D. Gov. Mike Rounds Denying Federal Aid to Indian Reservations in Crisis?, 2/16/10

medala also cites local political blog, Pure Pierre Politics, which actually highlights that South Dakota Democrats actually have a lot of local issues the can use against Rounds:

you have to further wonder whether the Democrats will turn the campaign into a referendum on how Rounds managed state government during his eight years in office. The 10 percent budget cuts that his successor, Gov. Dennis Daugaard, felt necessary to impose; the difficulties now surfacing within the South Dakota Retirement System because of policies encouraged during the 2000s; the deadlock over and shifting fate of the Homestake underground laboratory project; the second state-government jet that was purchased under the Rounds administration; the mini-controversy over Valhalla in Custer State Park; even the size and uses of the new governor’s mansion are just some of the topics that will be considered by Democrats. - Pure Pierre Politics, 9/13/12
There's no doubt that Rounds will make this race competitive but just like Rick Berg (R) in North Dakota, he only looks like a strong candidate on the surface.  Senator-elect Heidi Heitkamp (D) narrowly defeated Berg in Noth Dakota thanks to her strong GOTV efforts with North Dakota's Native American electorate:

Senator elect Heitkamp owes a lot to her strong Native American team, she was the only candidate that hired Native Americans, including Prairie Rose and Three Affiliated Tribes, Diane Johnson.  This was an amazing opportunity for the Native Americans of North Dakota to show the Country how important their votes are and that congress should start listening to us and pushing forward with the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (WAWA), more funding for Indian Health Services, more funding for Housing, more funding for Education, and more funding to combat drug and alcohol abuse.  All of this will allow Native Americans an opportunity to succeed in this country and enjoy true self-determination. - scarlet raven's diary, ND Senate: Heitkamp Wins! Native Vote Mattered, Again!, 11/7/12
The big thing Rounds has going for him is long connection with Super PACs:
Rounds might very well owe his political career to the state's loose campaign finance regulations.

He benefited from large PAC contributions as a fledgling gubernatorial candidate in 2002. Rapid City lawmaker and philanthropist Stan Adelstein funneled $60,000 to Rounds' campaign via two contributions from the Building Rapid City PAC, which was almost entirely funded by Adelstein. Of that $60,000, $25,000 came at a critical point late in a three-way primary race when Rounds was gaining momentum but running out of money.

Candidate Rounds also received more than $200,000 in 2002 in two separate contributions from Adelstein's A Better South Dakota PAC. While that PAC was organized by Adelstein, it was funded by a series of $5,000 contributions from several individuals.

Adelstein's fortune hasn't reached the heights of Sanford's, but he has been actively involved in South Dakota politics on both sides of the aisle since taking over the family construction business as a young man in the 1950s.

Rounds won a Cinderella victory in that three-way GOP primary in 2002, and went on to easily win the general election and serve two terms as a popular governor, from 2003 through 2010. - The Center For Public Integrity, 10/24/12

This race will no doubt be one of the most competitive races in 2014 but if South Dakota Democrats stick to their guns and keep generating a strong GOTV presence with Native Americans, this seat will stay blue.  Now if Tea Party Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R. SD-AL) actually decides to jump into this race, it could work in our favor.  Rounds didn't sign Grover Norquist's pledge to never raise taxes whereas Noem is dedicated to the pledge:

Rounds has also shown signs he may be a good fit for political moderates in 2014. While he said he doesn’t like the idea of raising taxes, the former governor has refused to sign Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, which has become a point of contention in the congressional debate over the “fiscal cliff.”
“I’ve always declined to sign the no new taxes pledge,” Rounds said, adding that you “lose your ability to negotiate” by taking inflexible vows. - Washington Post, 11/29/12
“I made a pledge to the people of South Dakota that I would not raise tax rates, so that’s what I am continuing to stand by, and I will look for real reforms that can help us grow our economy and bring more revenue into the federal budget,” Noem said when asked again if she would be willing to break the pledge she signed in 2010. - Argus Leader, 11/29/12

Noem hasn't announced yet if she will run for the U.S. Senate but she is keeping the door open though:

Soon after Rounds's Thursday announcement, Noem declined to rule out her own Senate bid. "It's too early for that. People are tired of campaigning," Noem said, per the Argus News Leader. "They really want to see our elected officials get back to work now that the election is over." - National Journal, 12/3/12
More details about this race won't emerge until next year but South Dakota Democratic Party Chairman Ben Nesselhuf sounds confident that Johnson will run again:
"Until he tells me otherwise, he's my guy. I have every reason to believe he would run just one heck of a campaign," Nesselhuf said. - Huffington Post, 12/6/12
And if Johnson decides to run again, he'll certainly be off to a great start in terms of funding:

Johnson has yet to announce his decision but a lobbyist with strong ties to Senate Democrats predicted he would run for a fourth term.

He reported $1.2 million in his campaign war chest at the end of September. - The Hill, 11/25/12

Karl Rove is up to his old tricks again by flooding the airwaves trying to pressure Democrats like Johnson in red states who are up for re-election in 2014:

Crossroads GPS, the big-spending independent group co-founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove, began running radio ads targeting five Democratic senators -- all up for re-election in 2014 -- urging them to support a "balanced plan" with big spending cuts. The ads criticize what the narrator says is a "one-sided plan" from President Obama calling for tax hikes.

"Both parties helped create the mess in Washington. Both parties should work together to clean it up," says the ad running in Alaska that targets Sen. Mark Begich. The other ads are aimed at Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. - USA Today, 12/11/12

But Johnson has already stated that he favors raising taxes and isn't fully on board with deep spending cuts:

The economy boomed during the Clinton era... and uh, that's correct and uh I would like to see a return to the uh, tax rate of the Clinton era where only in the top 2% of tax payers.  The rest can um, keep their tax rates where they are according to the recently passed Senate bill.

The President is calling for cuts in spending and tax increases for the very wealthy and a balanced proposal.  That's all that's going on and I can support some of the Presidents proposals but not others. - U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D. SD), Radio 570 WNAX,  12/7/12
And you can keep the pressure to stand his ground on taxes and to not support deep spending cuts to the safety net by calling his offices:

Washington D.C. - (202) 224-5842

Aberdeen - (605) 226-3440

Sioux Falls - (605) 332-8896

Raid City - (605) 341-3990

The ball is in Johnson's court.  It's up to him if he wants to go for a slam dunk in 2014 or pass it is son Brendan or Congresswoman Herseth Sandlin.

Originally posted to pdc on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 11:20 AM PST.

Also republished by South Dakota Kos and Native American Netroots.


If Senator Tim Johnson (D. SD) retires, who should the Democratic candidate be to replace him?

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