Democrats Lose Top Recruit in South Dakota

Herseth Sandlin passes on Senate run, leaving Republicans with early edge to win seat.

South Dakota Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin thanks her supporters, friends and family members during her concession speech at the Sioux Falls Convention Center Tuesday, November 2, 2010. Herseth Sandlin lost her seat to Republican challenger Kristi Noem in a close race. (National Journal)

Former Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin said Monday that she would not seek the Democratic nomination for Senate in South Dakota, robbing Democrats of a top recruit in a seat that's looking increasingly difficult for the party to hold.

In a post on her Facebook page, she said she wanted to spend more time with her family and her career.  "While I know you share my confidence that working together we could win a statewide race next year, I'm also confident that the decision not to run is the right decision for Max, Zachary, me and our entire family," she wrote.

Democrats had targeted the onetime congresswoman, who served from 2004 to 2011, as their top recruit in a seat currently held by retiring Sen. Tim Johnson. Even if Johnson had decided to run for another term, Republicans would have considered the solidly-Republican state one of their top pickup opportunities of the 2014 election.

"The DSCC has failed to clear the track in several states for their candidate of choice. Now that they've been unable to land their chosen candidate in Kentucky, Georgia, and South Dakota "“ the Senate Democrats are left facing the awkward situation of having to support their 2nd, 3rd, or even 11th choice," said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brad Dayspring.

The state's former GOP governor, Mike Rounds, has already declared he will seek the Republican Party's nomination. While Rounds announced his campaign early and has high name-identification in the state, he got off to a slow fundraising start.

Rick Weiland, a former aide to Sen. Tom Daschle, is the only declared candidate in the race for the Democrats. Johnson's son, U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, is also said to be considering a race, although Weiland told reporters last week he did not expect Brendan Johnson to enter the race.

"There will be a strong Democratic candidate that can seize on the divisive GOP primary and provide South Dakotans with a clear alternative to the dysfunction on the Republican side," said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Matt Canter.

"Mike Rounds is like the second coming of Tommy Thompson. He has a glass jaw and his big spending record and work in the private sector has never faced even one drop of scrutiny. National Republicans simply cannot win the majority if they are only fighting it out in red states and to date they have failed to expand the map in any way."