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So the recurring theme I keep seeing in articles about the upcoming gun control plan President Obama wants to pass is, "red state Democrats squeamish about gun control".  I'm hearing a lot of news that Democrats from red states, especially ones that are up for re-election.  If there is one Senator from a red state who may or may not run for re-election that is willing to take up some of President Obama's proposals, it's U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D. SD):

The Senator’s office confirms to me that he believes background checks should be in the mix. That means he’s very likely to support Obama’s final background check proposal — also a step forward, because he represents a red state, and because he recently signaled discomfort with government action on guns. - Washington Post, 1/22/13
Johnson has received high marks from the NRA for his support for gun owners.  This is a good sign because Johnson has stated that he believes gun control should be a stated decided issue instead of a one size fits all kind of deal:

As President Obama’s administrative efforts to lessen gun violence enliven the national gun control debate this week, Sen. Tim Johnson says he favors solutions tailored to a state-by-state approach to regulating firearms.

At a press conference in Sioux Falls on Tuesday, Johnson said firearms issues in South Dakota are not likely to be the same issues as those in New York and New Jersey. Johnson said he is looking for “common sense, not one size fits all.”

Beyond that, he acknowledged he has not yet settled on specific proposals himself. But he sees gun violence as a problem that needs to be addressed.

“I believe in the Second Amendment. I’m a hunter myself. But I think something should be done. What it is, I don’t know,” he said.

Johnson added any Congressional action ought to be a comprehensive bill that addresses, among other things, mental health background checks and limits on the magazine sizes of semi-automatic weapons. - Argus Leader, 1/15/13

Greg Sargent of the Washington Post praises Johnson's willingness to agree to universal background checks because Johnson is signing on to a key element of Obama's gun proposal:
But the assault weapons ban is not even the centerpiece of Obama’s proposal. Universal background checks are, and if Obama gets that it will be a major achievement in its own right. Given that huge majorities — including of Republicans and gun owners — favor universal background checks, you’d think Dems up for reelection could support them. Right?

The picture is mixed. Thus far, only two Dems up for reelection next year are supportive of background checks, while the others either won’t say yet or have not responded to my questions. - Washington Post, 1/22/13

Emphasis mine.

By the way, found out an interesting fact about Johnson.  Out of all the Democrats to hail from red states, Johnson is the one Democrat who agrees with the President the most:

One of the Democrats to support Obama the most — and who is up for election in 2014 — is Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota. CQ found Johnson supported Obama nearly 99% of the time on issues where the president's position was clear. That puts Johnson up there with Democratic senators such as New York's Charles Schumer in terms of presidential support.

Johnson hasn't said whether he'll run for another term in South Dakota, a state that has been trending Republican. Former governor Mike Rounds, a Republican, has already announced his Senate bid. - USA Today, 1/22/13

Considering how red South Dakota is and Johnson's electoral history of winning very close races, I'm impressed that he's had Obama's back for this long and hasn't defected as much as Joe Manchin of West Virginia or Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.  By the way, this section of the Argus Leader article to me indicates that Johnson will run again:
Johnson also said he will decide this spring whether to seek a fourth term in the Senate. He noted he will be 68 by the time his current term expires. In the Senate, that might qualify him as a young man, he said in a humorous aside. Weighed against a possible retirement is his position as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and chairman of the military construction subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“I’m more powerful than I’ve ever been. But there comes a time when you should say ‘that’s it.’ But I don’t know if that time has come yet,” he said. In the meantime, Johnson acknowledged he is still raising money for a possible campaign. - Argus Leader, 1/15/13

If Johnson decides to run again, he will be facing a very competitive and expensive race with former governor Mike "Abortion Ban" Rounds (R. SD).  Rounds is the preferred candidate of the Ethanol Industry and Super PAC folks:
Rob Skjonsberg, Mike Rounds crony
Rob Skjonsberg, Mike Rounds Crony (Right)

PIERRE — Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Thursday appointed an associate of former Republican Gov. Mike Rounds’ to a board that awards state economic development loans, a move the state’s top Democratic Party official called a blatant effort to help Rounds’ campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Daugaard, a Republican, appointed Rob Skjonsberg, of Pierre, to the state Board of Economic Development. Skjonsberg worked eight years in the banking industry before becoming Rounds’ chief of staff in the governor’s office in 2003. He later worked at POET, an ethanol producer, and is currently chief of staff at Rounds’ real estate and insurance company in Pierre. Skjonsberg also is a partner in a political consulting firm that is helping Rounds’ campaign for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, who has said he will announce later whether he will seek re-election. - The Daily Republic, 1/4/13

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

But one thing is for sure, Johnson is certainly the preferred candidate of South Dakota's Native American electorate because he's proven to deliver for them:
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) announced that five South Dakota tribes will receive $1.3 million in grants to enhance public transit service on tribal lands. The funds were competitively awarded as part of the Federal Transit Administration’s Tribal Transit Program. Earlier this year, the Senate passed a transit bill authored by Chairman Johnson which will double funding for transit programs on Indian reservations and give tribal transit providers greater certainty for planning and capital improvements.

“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

Again, I can't emphasize how important the Native American vote is for Democrats in red states like South Dakota.  Native Americans came out heavily for Jon Tester in Montana and Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota in 2012.  I think Johnson will run again and if he does, expect me to be raising money for him.  Right now, he is focused on getting the debt ceiling raised and a farm bill passed.  He's proven to be a great hand in passing President Obama's agenda and of course Rounds and the GOP will spend big to demonize him for that.  Until I hear him officially say, "I'm running for re-election" expect me to be raising money for him.

Originally posted to pdc on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 05:17 PM PST.

Also republished by The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, South Dakota Kos, and Native American Netroots.

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