Varilek’s strong start

Matt Varilek is looking good in the opening weeks of the race for the 2012 Democratic nomination for South Dakota’s lone House seat.

Varilek says he has raised more than $100,000, collected the endorsement of his former boss, Sen. Tim Johnson (which is not a surprise) and is touring the state making appearances and friends.

The former economic development director to Johnson is making his first bid for elective office. He wants to take on first-term Rep. Kristi Noem, a Republican from Castlewood.

Varilek’s odds for the nomination will grow if former Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin stays out of the 2012 campaign. So far, SHS has made no effort to run, disbanding her political organization and making few public appearances.

In an e-mail exchange I had with her this week, she said she has been busy traveling and spending time with family while also battling “nasty colds.” That sounds like a young mother dealing with a 3-year-old son, not a veteran politician gearing up for a run at a return to Congress.

We will soon see. Herseth Sandlin told me she will make a “final” announcement soon.

It may be very good news for Matt Varilek, or it could mean he’s in for a tough run for the party’s nomination. And fellow candidate Jeff Barth┬áhas dropped his earlier pledge to get out of the race if SHS jumps back in.

Barth, a Minnehaha County commissioner, doesn’t have the money nor does he have the backing of the most powerful Democrat in the state. But he is a proven candidate, having won a pair of elections in South Dakota’s biggest county.

Varilek and Barth shared the spotlight in Tyndall Thursday night, where they met with voters at an “old-fashioned Christmas party” hosted by state Rep. Frank Kloucek. It was an opportunity for Barth to be at the same level as Varilek as they compete for a chance to run against Noem.

They will likely stage a lively two-man race this winter and spring, unless SHS decides she wants a rematch, which seems unlikely. But we will soon know a lot more.

One thought on “Varilek’s strong start

  1. I don’t know if Varilek is a strong challenger to Noem or not. I doubt it though.

    What bugs me about Noem is her openness with the public. She did a terrible job advertising her stops in Mitchell and yet received full coverage by your paper.

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