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U.S. Senate candidate, Rick Weiland (D. SD), picked up a big and crucial endorsement for his 2014 campaign:

The Great Plains Tribal Chairman's Association announced Wednesday that it was backing Weiland, who has run for Congress once before, because it believed he had stood strong on native issues.

“Rick Weiland has worked extensively with American Indian Tribes and tribal leaders his entire career and we trust him," the association wrote in a statement. "As the FEMA regional director and later as CEO of the International Code Council, Rick helped forge consensus on complex issues. He has a personal connection with many of our tribal people."

The Great Plains Tribal Chairman's Association is composed of leaders from tribes in South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. - Rapid City Journal, 6/12/13

Having the backing of Native Americans is essential for Democrats to win in states like South Dakota.  Senator Tim Johnson (D. SD), who is retiring next year, was able to win tight races thanks to South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation.  Plus with Weiland's background as the FEMA regional director will come in handy to attack former Governor Mike Rounds (R. SD), who is running for Senate.  Here's a little background info:

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
Why would Rounds delay federal disaster relief for South Dakota's Native Americans?

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

Now of course Weiland has to win over more than just the Native American vote if he wants to be Rounds so he is the underdog in this race.  I've heard people in the community talk about writing this race off since both former Blue Dog Whip Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D. SD-AL) and Johnson's son, U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson (D. SD) decided to pass on this race.  I can understand people's skepticism, Rounds is a big name candidate with Super PAC funding and name recognition.  Plus Rounds' recently caught a huge break:

U.S. Rep. Kristin Noem, R-S.D., has decided not to run for the seat now held by three-term Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, who is not seeking a fourth term in 2014. Instead, Noem will seek a third term in the U.S. House of representatives.

Noem said she made the decision after spending the weekend with her family here in South Dakota. She said she will focus on important legislation in the U.S. House, including passage of the federal farm bill.

Former Gov. Mike Rounds announced for the Senate last year. That led to speculation that Noem might also seek the Senate seat, setting up a high-profile, potentially divisive Republican Senate primary in 2014.

In announcing that she will run for the House in 2014, Noem said she would "work hard to help elect a South Dakota Republican to the U.S. Senate next year." - Rapid City Journal, 6/11/13

But don't expect party unity just yet:

“Kristi is not planning to endorse in the primary," Stoick said by email. "In making her decision not to run, Kristi also decided it is best for her to stay focused on her work in the House and not get involved in the primary.”

And there will be a primary, almost certainly.

Bill Napoli? Maybe. Larry Rhoden? Well, his name did come up. Former state legislator Lora Hubbel. She's been gearing up for something for some time.

And how about some doctor from Sioux Falls I've never heard of? You'll have to ask David Montgomery or Pat Powers about her.

The possibilities seem endless. In fact, keep checking back with this thread and I'll likely add some more.

But none of them will raise much of a blip of concern on the Rounds Radar Screen of Campaign Concerns.

Which doesn't mean they won't raise questions worth reporting on in a primary. Reporters love primaries. So does democracy. - Rapid City Journal, 6/12/13

I know Noem would've been a real problem for Rounds but Tea Party and right-wing groups weren't exactly thrilled about her potential candidacy:

Conservative groups are on the record with their distrust and distaste for former Gov. Mike Rounds in South Dakota, but efforts to find an alternative for the Senate race have come up short so far.

Rounds is the front-runner for the GOP nomination. He’s also the only Republican running for Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson’s open seat.

But some Republicans in Washington, D.C., doubt Rounds’ conservative credentials. And some Republicans in the Mount Rushmore State have never viewed him as a political heavyweight, after he squeaked through his initial gubernatorial primary.

The Democratic scenario to hold this seat seems to rely on a three-pronged scenario: a messy Republican primary, an unelectable GOP nominee and a quality Democratic candidate. But it’s possible that none of those scenarios comes to fruition.

At-Large Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., was immediately and consistently mentioned as the anti-Rounds because it was assume that she was acceptably conservative, because she was elected in 2010. But Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller threw some cold water on her hypothetical candidacy.

“Neither Mike Rounds nor Kristi Noem are fiscal conservatives, and the Club for Growth PAC will not support either candidate,” Keller said. “We are watching South Dakota’s Senate race to see if a pro-growth candidate emerges.”

Senate Conservatives Fund’s Matt Hoskins sang out of the same hymnal.

“Mike Rounds has a very liberal record and he doesn’t represent the values of most South Dakotans,” Hoskins told CQ Roll Call. “Our grass-roots members in the state have asked us to help them find a conservative alternative, and that’s what we’re working to do.

“We’ve looked at Kristi Noem’s record but, unfortunately, we won’t be able to support her if she decides to run. Her votes to raise the debt limit and to increase taxes as part of the fiscal cliff deal make it all but impossible for our members to back her campaign,” added Hoskins, who said Noem’s vote for the farm bill was the final straw. - Roll Call, 6/11/13

Noem may not have been the Tea Party's cup of tea but that didn't mean that she couldn't win the primary.  But establishment Republicans like Senator John Thune (R. SD) were worried that Noem's entrance into the primary could've hurt the party's chances:

Republican infighting could hurt Republicans at the ballot box, as well as impeding their legislative agendas once elected, Sen. John Thune warned Wednesday.

But despite his concern about intra-party squabbles, Thune said he’s not going to discourage U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem from challenging former Gov. Mike Rounds in the 2014 U.S. Senate race.

The Republican senator made his comments during a wide-ranging discussion with the Argus Leader editorial board Wednesday afternoon. Discussing both politics and policy, Thune returned repeatedly the subject of infighting.

“When Republicans end up going to war with Republicans, it often leads to Democrats getting elected,” he said.

Rounds is the only declared Republican candidate for South Dakota’s U.S. Senate seat. But Noem has expressed interest in running for the job, along with several other South Dakota Republicans.

Both Rounds and Noem have spoken with Thune about the race.

“I’ve had discussions with (Noem) on various occasions, and I’ve had discussions with former Gov. Rounds on various occasions about the 2014 political landscape,” Thune said. “Obviously, they’re both people who are very accomplished in their own rights and have their own political credentials.”

Thune, who considered running for president in 2012 in addition to his runs for U.S. House and Senate, said he wasn’t telling Noem whether to enter the race.

“I always tell people, and I told them this, that making a decision about whether to run for office or not is a very personal decision,” he said. “I’m not going to be one to tell anybody what I think they ought to do.” - Argus Leader, 5/30/13

Noem deciding against running for the GOP nominee also doesn't mean that Rounds won't get a primary challenger:

Analysts had considered Noem an instant odds-on favorite to win the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by senator Tim Johnson and a number of potential candidates, including Bill Napoli of Rapid City and Steve Kirby of Sioux Falls have stated that Noem's plans would determine their own decisions regarding possible campaigns for either Senate or House. - News Center 1, 6/12/13
And former State Senator Bill Napoli (R. SD) has certainly been one of Rounds most vocal critic regarding his conservative credentials:
Meanwhile, another potential candidate, former state senator, Bill Napoli of Rapid City mulls a run of his own.

“I was approached by many people who said, Bill it's time.  It's time for you to represent us in Congress.”  Napoli said.

Like many others, Napoli, says a decision by current Congresswoman Kristi Noem is what everyone is waiting for.

“I honestly believe that if she does not run, it will probably be the biggest political blunder of this century, because the stars are aligned for her to walk into that seat,” Napoli said.  

“You know, she started out a little weak as a candidate, and a little weak in the House, but she's growing into that position, she's growing stronger she's becoming more articulate.”

And a Noem-Herseth Sandlin rematch could be in the works.  If both women decide to run, Napoli says their familiarity from a hard fought congressional race in 2010, combined with large amounts of out of state money tussling over the senate balance of power would make for high grade political theater.

“But this all hinges on Kristi Noem.  If Kristi Noem runs, I'm perfectly satisfied with that, but if she decides she's going to stay in the house, then all cards are on the table and we're going to look at all options.” Napoli said.

Regardless of their final decisions, the interest generated by a Noem, Herseth-Sandlin grudge match makes the prospect of a Mike Rounds, Brendan Johnson race pale by comparison.  With Bill Napoli considering his own run, he says there are a number of reasons why republicans have been lukewarm about a rounds candidacy.

“Here's a guy that just walked out of the governor's chair after 8 years and handed 125-million dollar deficit to Daugaard and said we'll see you, here take care of this.  I honestly believe that they've forgotten who we are and we need to get back to that,” Napoli said. - News Center 1, 4/23/13

So we'll see if Napoli can walk the walk and be the Club For Growth and Tea Party's guy.  I know we're all hoping that a nasty GOP primary will pave the way for a Weiland victory but we shouldn't rely on that solely.  Weiland's unapologetic support for the Affordable Health Care Act his past failures to win congressional campaigns can make people skeptical but I urge you all to not write off this race just yet.  A lot can happen between now and election time.  Yes the odds are in Rounds favor due to his name recognition, Super PAC funding and Governor Dennis Daugaard (R. SD) putting Rounds cronies in charge of the South Dakota economic development board in South Dakota.  But Weiland will have his old boss, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's (D. SD) dedicated support:
"I am going to do everything I can to help Rick.  I hope you will too," he says in a fundraising email sent to supporters by the campaign on Monday. - The Hill, 5/14/13
And Weiland plans to run a populist campaign touching on issues that everyone in red and blue states can agree on:
“I'm focused on getting out there and talking to the people of our state, having the conversation about their concerns, cares. I really feel that Washington is broken right now,” he said.

Weiland is a Madison, SD-native, and a long-time Daschle staffer who ran unsuccessful Congressional campaigns in 1996 and 2002. He says he only decided weeks ago to run again. Apart from his broken government message, Weiland said senior programs like Medicare and Social Security will be focuses of his campaign.

“The American people like them,” he said. “They've given dignity to people in their retirement years. They've given people access to healthcare at a point in your life where it's hard to get when you get older.”

Weiland was a regional FEMA director, working with national officials in South Dakota following the Spencer Tornado in 1998. He has also worked for the South Dakota AARP and the International Code Council, which he stepped down from that last year. - Keloland, 5/8/13

Rounds will propose the "put everything on the table" solution to budget talks which could give Weiland the opportunity to make the case for programs like Medicare and Social Security.  Of course Rounds will do everything he can to attach Weiland to Obama but that may not be enough to take down Weiland.  Rep. Rick Berg (R. ND) was a big name candidate who thought that attaching Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D. ND) was enough to defeat her but that didn't turn out the way he planned.  Now Rounds is planning on raising a lot of money to help him win this race:

Former governor Mike Rounds plans to raise $9 million for his 2014 U.S. Senate bid, which would be among the best-funded campaigns in South Dakota history.

If Rounds achieves this goal, he’d raise more money than any South Dakota candidates except for John Thune and Tom Daschle in their mammoth 2004 battle.

It also would be more than either Thune or Tim Johnson raised in their razor-thin 2002 matchup, and more than Heidi Heitkamp and Rick Berg raised in their 2012 North Dakota election.

Rounds discussed his financial goals Wednesday evening at one of more than half a dozen fundraising events he’s had in the past week. On Wednesday alone, he met at the Minnehaha County Country Club with big-dollar donors such as T. Denny Sanford and Dana Dykhouse, then headed to Luciano’s North to mingle with young professionals among hors d’oeuvres and a wine bottle raffle. The day before, Rounds was in Texas, where Gov. Rick Perry helped him meet Texas donors.

“The emphasis between now and the end of the month is really on fundraising,” said Rounds, who estimated he’s spending about 80 percent of his campaign time on fundraising.

Just a few months ago, Rounds was being criticized for his fundraising. After coming out of the gate with almost $270,000 in his first month in the race, national commentators dismissed Rounds’ total for the next three months as “just” $184,000 and noted other senatorial candidates who raised considerably more.

“Even people who are open to Rounds being the nominee were underwhelmed by his early fundraising,” said Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.

Rounds said that’s not likely to be the story when he files his next campaign finance report in early July.

“We’d like to close in on $500,000 in fundraising results for the quarter,” he said. - Agus Leader, 6/12/13

I wouldn't underestimate Rounds' campaign but I also wouldn't want to prematurely call this race a loss for Team Blue just yet.  Hopefully Harry Reid and the DSCC will get over Herseth Sandlin passing on the opportunity to get behind Weiland.  Still, I plan on keeping an eye on this race and see how it develops.  Weiland doesn't have a website just yet but you can checkout his grassroots site, People for Rick Weiland, to follow the campaign:  

Originally posted to pdc on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 11:24 AM PDT.

Also republished by Pushing back at the Grand Bargain, South Dakota Kos, In Support of Labor and Unions, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, and Native American Netroots.

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