Former Gov. Mike Rounds -R is in the race, and three-term Democratic incumbent Sen. Tim Johnson  "fully intend(s) to put together a winning campaign" although he will not make an announcement until next year.

With the Senate races a key focus for 2014, SD will be one of the states in the spotlight. So reliably red in the presidential race this year that the only national politicians to visit the state did so not to campaign, but to pay tribute to former Sen. George McGovern, we will likely see a barrage of media attention focusing on the race which may be between two popular men who have never lost an election.   Follow me beyond the orange stylized "SD" scribble.

First, some background for those unfamiliar with recent Senate dramas in the Rushmore State.  In the last Senate race (2010) incumbent Sen. John Thune, a former staffer for the late Sen. Abnor (the man who defeated Sen. McGovern) ran unopposed.  If you note his vote margins or his legislative record, it seems obvious that this was less a demonstration of any great accomplishment on his part and more a reflection that it is a huge advantage for a nice looking, nice guy running with an R after their name to win political office in the state.  This is especially true when you have as big a campaign fund as his during and after his narrow defeat of former  Minority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004.  Still the close loss in Daschle's attempt at his fourth Senate term, and the failure of SD Democrats to even field a candidate the next time, losing the SD-AL House seat they were "focusing on" instead were bitter pills for SD progressives.    

At the same time, Sen. Tim Johnson, who suffered a stroke from an ruptured AVM in 2006, was overwhelmingly reelected to his current term in 2008 with over 60% of the vote.  His previous race was a narrow victory of just over 500 votes defeating then SD-AL Rep. John Thune in 2002.  (His first Senate race was a victory over incumbent Sen. Larry Pressler.)

So Sen. Johnson is a Democrat, albeit a moderate Democrat, who wins elections in SD. (Please read this excellent diary about Tim by poopdogcomedy.)  For those of us who work for incremental change and savor small victories, that's a huge reason to be glad that Johnson, who has suffered speech impairment and who uses a wheelchair but is still as mentally sharp as ever, and is the state's best chance to have a competitive race in 2014 is strongly hinting that he is up for the challenge.  

Because, the Republican challenger, Mike Rounds, is another nice-looking, nice guy who has enjoyed great popularity in the state despite not really having any significant accomplishments for all his time in office.  

Rounds was a state legislator who won the Republican primary for governor over two well-financed and well-known rivals who greatly outspent Rounds and engaged in a nasty fight.  Although one of them was supposed to win, Rounds came in from behind to win handily, mostly  by being nice.  

And to be honest, it's not that Rounds didn't do anything in office.  It's that he remains so popular even after doing the things he did.  Here, poopdogcomedy introduces us to Rounds - the guy who tried to ban abortions in South Dakota.  He signed a bill banning all abortions except for those needed to save the life of the mother as a direct Supreme Court challenge. SD voters, not vocally pro-choice, but sick of wasting time and money on failed court challenges, voted it down twice, even after exceptions were included for rape and incest. Rounds believes in fetal personhood.  But he states his case so nicely, at least compared to the interviewer in this Youtube video (after 4:00) just standing there smiling and waving at the traffic going by.

Rounds was governor when the first SD inmate since 1947 was executed.  (His successor has had two executions during his term.)  

There was nepotism, there were issues with planes, there was misuse of state property to reward supporters and other questionable behavior but IOKIYAR:

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.
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.
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.
Aji, Navajo and several other Kossacks wrote action diaries that led to national attention and outrage.  Keith Olbermann even raised the issue.  Ironically he didn't focus on the stand-by governor, but named the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, of which Sen. Johnson is a member, as the `Worst persons in the world.` Politically, this is important in SD because Democrats need to win the support of Native American voters.  And to get that support we have to listen to their concerns and work with them.  In ND:
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.
We have our president.  We need to keep Senate seats in the next election.  What can we do to help keep a Democratic seat in South Dakota?  This will be one of the  elections to follow closely.

Originally posted to meralda on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 05:50 PM PST.

Also republished by South Dakota Kos.


Can a red state like SD keep a Democratic Senate seat in 2014?

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