Former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds (R) yesterday officially announced a challenge to three-term Sen. Tim Johnson (D) in the 2014 election. This action was expected, since Rounds formed a Senatorial exploratory soon before the November election. He served as South Dakota’s governor from 2003-2011. Because of the state’s term-limits law, Rounds was ineligible to seek re-election in 2010. He garnered 57 percent of the vote in his original campaign, and 62 percent four years later. Prior to his time as governor, Rounds served five two-year terms in the state Senate.
Due to Johnson’s physical condition after suffering a stroke in the latter stages of 2006, many have speculated that he will not seek re-election. Since the Republicans only fielded token opposition to him in 2008, the senator’s first real political test since enduring the unfortunate health situation will come in the next election.
For his part, Johnson issued a statement welcoming Rounds to the race and indicated that he will make a final decision whether to run again next year. Johnson said that he “feels great” and that he intends “to put together a winning campaign in the weeks and months ahead.” Johnson has been in public office consecutively since his original election to the South Dakota House of Representatives in 1978. He went onto serve in the state Senate and the US House of Representatives before winning the Senate seat in 1996.
South Dakota is no stranger to hotly contested and notable Senatorial campaigns in its recent past. In 2002, Johnson nipped then-Rep. John Thune (R-SD-AL) by a mere 524 votes statewide. Two years later, Thune defeated then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D) 50.6 to 49.4 percent in the 2004 general election. Should Johnson decide to retire, former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD-AL) is most often mentioned as a potential Democratic candidate. The senator’s son, Brendan Johnson, who is the sitting US Attorney for the District of South Dakota, is also a potential future candidate for a statewide political office.