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LAWRENCE: Herseth Sandlin stays in public eye

As speculation on the potential retirement of Sen. Tim Johnson grows louder, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is making more public appearances.

SHS spoke at the South Dakota Farmers Union Convention in January.

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 Johnson 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 husband, former Texas Congressman Max Sandlin, told me last fall that Herseth Sandlin agonized over entering the 2012 race.

She finally decided to opt out, although polls consistently showed her leading Noem, according to Sandlin.

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.

She spoke Monday at the inaugural Women's Farm and Forestry Alliance at the Saint Paul Hotel in St. Paul, Minn. It's an event Herseth Sandlin helped organize.

All this doesn't sound like the work of someone who is done with politics.

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 hemorrhage.

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?