Stephanie shows up

As speculation on the potential retirement of Sen. Tim Johnson grows louder, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin made a very public appearance in South Dakota Friday night.

SHS spoke at the South Dakota Farmers Union Convention. Just by doing so, she raised the question: What’s next for Herseth Sandlin?

A 2014 House rematch with Rep. Kristi Noem, who knocked her out of the House in 2010, and whom she almost challenged again in 2012? A 2014 bid for the Senate seat if TJ calls it a career? A run for governor, either in 2014 against Gov. Dennis Daugaard, which seems unlikely, or in 2018, when the seat may well be open?

Or will it be a hopefully long, happy life and career as a wife, mother and lawyer? Stephanie Herseth Sandlin has a husband, son, and family, as well as a career as an attorney and vice president for Raven Industries of Sioux Falls. That would satisfy most people.

She ran for Congress six times, winning four races. Perhaps that has quenched her desire to gain votes, although she has repeatedly said she misses serving. The money’s a lot worse, but the prestige and impact are far greater.

Her appearance before the Farmers Union, a traditionally Democratic-leaning organization, was bound to spark interest. SHS, a political animal to her core, knew that.

“The reason we didn’t get a multi-year farm bill in the last Congress, five words: John Boehner and Eric Cantor, bottom line,” she said in her speech, referring to Speaker of the House Boehner and House Majority Leader Cantor. “And it’s because they’re ideologically opposed to many of the programs that are in that bill. The Senate comes up with a product that saves $23 billion in taxpayer money, passes a bipartisan bill, the House Ag Committee passes a bill and John Boehner won’t bring it for a vote.”

The speech got little press attention, but SHS is spreading the word.

“I was honored to join friends from across the state in Aberdeen this weekend at the SD Farmers Union Convention,” she posted on her Facebook page.

Johnson has not said if he will seek a fourth term in the Senate, although numerous online “experts” and political pundits have said all signs point to a retirement. He is 66, and still battling the impact of his 2006 brain bleed.

Plus, this is not the same South Dakota that has elected him to national office eight times. There are more Republicans, and they are more conservative, while the number of Democrats has slid from years past.

Meanwhile, former Gov. Mike Rounds is warming up in the Republican bullpen while Rep. Kristi Noem ponders if she should seek a third term in the House, or challenge Rounds in the GOP primary. With Sen. John Thune apparently safe in his Senate seat for years unless he becomes president or vice president — and he’s interested, that’s for sure — Noem may think this is her chance to run to the right of Rounds and land a job with a six-year guarantee, not a two-year renewal clause.

But right now, the speculation is on Stephanie. What will she do? Does she even know herself?

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About Tom Lawrence

I'm a South Dakota native who has covered the state since 1978. The events, officials, celebrities and news have provided a remarkable pageant to watch pass. Spending time with and learning about the people of South Dakota, almost always strong, modest, wry, smart, decent and friendly, has been the best part of the work. I live in Mitchell.

3 thoughts on “Stephanie shows up

  1. My guess has always been that she had long planned to run for US Senate in 2014 with certain clauses. Number one was that Obama might be out of the White House making it safe for Dems to run again in red states. That didn’t happen. That is one strike against Herseth’s chances. Number 2 was that she would get a chance to rematch Kristi Noem on waters that Noem has struggled to navigate herself. Problem is Mike Rounds came out of retirement and stunned everyone by gearing up to run for US Senate. Strike two against Herseth is that Rounds is really popular. We will have to wait and see what strike three is against Herseth on deciding this election cycle. But right now I don’t think the odds are really in her favor.

  2. If I was an advisor to Herseth I would suggest she wait until 2018 and run for Governor or she run for congress against Noem (whom she would defeat handily in 2014).

    My fellow Republican friends all laugh at me when I say that she is the odds on favorite to be the next Governor of SD if she runs in ’18. I think the main reason is that she’s popular and has built a lot of support on the east side of the state in the largest counties. While Republicans will likely have a serious primary race unlike they did in 2010. Jackley, Russ Olson, Matt Michels, Dusty Johnson, Mark Mickelson and a host of others won’t shy away from a good fight in ’18 and Herseth Sandlin ain’t Jim Abbot. She’s probably the best candidate the Dems have had for governor since her father ran and likely since Kniep’s final run.

    The only person who would keep her from the Governor’s office is Kristi Noem if she goes unbeaten in ’14. Then I have to say Noem would be a 3 term congresswoman who’s popularity and familiarity should be peaking. If Brendan Johnson beats Noem in ’14 SHS doesn’t have to worry about that. But if she’s not on the ballot and Noem is the only R with a real race then that makes it easy for all Republicans to help Kristi and hard for Brendan Johnson to get as much traction. Herseth and Brendan Johnson need to run as a team in order for either to win in ’14.

  3. The word in Vermillion Democratic circles is that Tim has already decided to pass the ring to Brendan Johnson and that Tim’s announcement will set him up. The Johnsons consider Herseth old news and want to hem her in. Herseth acting like she fears becoming irrelevant. Do you have thoughts on this? Thank you for your story. I don’t think anyone else in South Dakota has covered any of this.

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