Tim Johnson heads home for announcement

Tim Johnson is headed to his hometown for his big announcement Tuesday.

Sen. Johnson will announce his plans for 2014 at 3 p.m. at the Al Neuharth Media Center on the USD campus in Vermillion. It is widely believed he will announce he will end his political career in January 2015, and will not seek a fourth Senate term next year.

In fact, the Reuters News Service has issued a breaking news alert that Johnson is retiring. It all seems to make sense — he’s 66, his health is fragile, he is trailing in polls to both former Gov. Mike Rounds and Rep. Kristi Noem, and he has made no steps to run again.

It all points to a retirement announcement. What’s next for Tim? He told me last year he would return home, and would not work as a lobbyist.

What’s next for the South Dakota Democratic Party? Whom will it find to run in his place? Former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, and U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, the senator’s son, are considered the leading contenders for their party’s nomination.

And what’s next for Noem — will she challenge Rounds in a GOP primary? If not, will some other Republican seek to run to his right in the June contest?

But last things first. If Tim Johnson does retire after winning every race he has undertaken for office, few will be surprised, but all need appreciate the years of service he gave to South Dakota. He has carved out an independent course, has maintained a moderate to liberal stance over the years, and has been a decent, smart, good man while serving more than a quarter century in D.C.

If tomorrow is the first stanza in a farewell song, it will cap a long and successful career. Before everyone jumps all over the 2014 speculation, let’s remember that.