If you’re a reader of The Daily Republic, you may know I wrote a column recently in which I advised Stephanie Herseth Sandlin to either forgo next year’s Senate race in order to fulfill her expressed desire to spend more time with her family, or to quit talking about that desire so much if she had already decided to run.
I’m under no illusions that my column had any impact whatsoever on her decision, but I do think, partly for the reasons I outlined in the column, that she made a smart move.
You can’t go all over the state telling everybody how important your family time is — as Herseth Sandlin had been doing lately — and then jump into the first big-time political race that comes along. It would look hypocritical.
The next time an opportunity arises, Herseth Sandlin’s young son will probably be in grade school, and she’ll be more able to make the sacrifice of time it takes to run for and win a statewide elected office.
Furthermore, I think the political winds are against her right now. When the regular voter thinks of Herseth Sandlin, I think there’s still a feeling of, “didn’t we just vote her out a couple of years ago?” It’s too soon for a full-scale comeback. Besides, I don’t see her beating Mike Rounds in a Senate race or Kristi Noem in a House race, and another defeat right now could be the end of Herseth Sandlin’s political career.
There will be more opportunities for Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. Nobody is emerging so far from the Democratic Party in South Dakota to challenge her as (in the absence of Tim Johnson) the party’s biggest star. She will continue to be the first name on Democratic lists for every statewide office that opens up. Of course, Brendan Johnson is out there on the horizon, but it’s looking more like he, too, might pass on the 2014 cycle. And we all know there’s plenty of room on the perilously thin South Dakota Democratic bench for two.
With a few more years living and working in South Dakota under her belt, Herseth Sandlin will be an even better candidate. One of the knocks on her was always that she left the state as a young woman for college and law school and appeared to rarely come back. By the next time she runs for something, with all the time she’ll have spent living, working and raising her child in South Dakota, that criticism will have been obliterated. I can honestly say I’d be more inclined to vote for her knowing that she’s shared my experience of being a working parent in South Dakota. And she’ll be better able to relate to voters, which is a scary prospect for Republicans, given she’s already shown she can win statewide elections in a Republican-dominated state.
So today I say congratulations to Stephanie Herseth Sandlin for making a good decision for sound reasons. Enjoy your family and your life for a while. I have a feeling the Democrats will still need you a few years down the road, and you’ll be able come back to politics when you’re truly ready.