The 10 most interesting politicians in SD are …

A poster to this blog offered a take on the 10 most interesting politicians in South Dakota and it was a good list, filled with fascinating vote-seekers. The challenge was to offer your take.

Here’s my list. If you have one, chime in.

1. John Thune. Mentioned for president and VP in 2010, 2011 and 2012, spoke at this year’s RNC and now campaigning for Romney, he has by far the highest profile in the nation for a South Dakotan, and a ton of respect at home, where he was unopposed for a second term in 2010.

2. Tim Johnson. While he chairs the powerful Senate Banking Committee while battling health challenges, SD political watchers speculate on will he or won’t he run in 2014. TJ has never lost a race in his life; will he jeopardize that in two years to seek a fourth Senate term?

3. Dennis Daugaard. He was a quiet, part-time lieutenant governor but DD grabbed the reins of state government in 2011 and has been a powerful, effective and surprisingly political governor. He will be hard to beat in 2014, even with a right-wing challenge in the primary.

4. Kristi Noem. Three years ago an almost unknown state rep. from a tiny town, she leaped to Congress and a House leadership slot. She may well have a prominent future in SD for years to come.

5. Mike Rounds. He was DD’s old boss and a popular two-term governor despite grumbling from some on both sides of the aisle as to his real effectiveness. Another will-he-or-won’t-he in 2014, although it seems for sure that he will run for the Senate.

6. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. Three years ago she may have topped this list, but a surprising defeat in 2010, a turn as a lawyer for a DC firm and now a return home to SD puts her on the list of what’s up next. Her youth, talent and pedigree makes it seem obvious she will run again, but for what and when?

7. Marty Jackley. The attorney general and former U.S. attorney is experienced, very media-friendly and clearly ambitious. There are a lot of young Republicans eager to move ahead, but Jackley is at the front of the elephant herd.

8. Brendan Johnson. If any young Democrat has a future in SD politics it’s a guy whose name is very familiar to voters. Tim’s son is the U.S. attorney in the state and an affable, back-slapping pol, unlike his more-reserved dad. It seems a question of when, not if, he runs for political office.

9. Mike Huether. The mayor of Sioux Falls prodded and pushed and got the convention center approved and at his favored site. He may be considering a move into state or federal office next.

10. Stace Nelson. The big, burly former Marine has raised hell in Pierre as a legislator, irritated some of his fellow Republicans and battled and beat a large dairy operation in his home county. Nelson is vying for a return to the capitol in 2013, where he would surely make news and cause some headaches again.

There are many other contenders: Matt Varilek, Jason Gant, his sparring partner Stan Adelstein, Matt Michels, Dusty Johnson, George McGovern, Tom Daschle, Val Rausch, Sam Kooiker, and others. But I’ll stick with those 10.

3 thoughts on “The 10 most interesting politicians in SD are …

  1. Top 10 is a good list.

    I agree with some of your “misses” – Gant, Michels, Dusty Johnson. Adelstein is interesting, but in a different way from many of the others.

    A few more good names: Corey Brown, Russell Olson, and Dan Lederman. The other obvious name is Mark Mickelson.

  2. Corey Brown is a good addition as is Mark Mickelson. One was the guy who chaired appropriations during the budget crisis and a major part of the sollution (everyone respects him). Mickelson should be on this list because speculation about his future has gone through the roof inspite of the fact he hasn’t served a day.

    Russ’ moment will arive one day if the TP doesn’t bring him down first. he will need to navigate these waters wisely. Very respected person.

    Lederman if only for the fact that he is a unique character in a low profile political environment and because he doesn’t ever seem to work… How is he in so many different places? Lederman’s star might rise one day.

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