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ROSS: 2014 threatens to overshadow 2012

South Dakota political observers could be forgiven for licking our chops over the pending 2014 U.S. Senate race even while a 2012 U.S. House race gets under way in earnest after Tuesday's primary election.

Denise Ross
Denise Ross

South Dakota political observers could be forgiven for licking our chops over the pending 2014 U.S. Senate race even while a 2012 U.S. House race gets under way in earnest after Tuesday's primary election.

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin's announcement last week of her pending move to Sioux Falls brought the 2014 election into sharper focus, and former Gov. Mike Rounds has launched TV commercials promoting his family's insurance business. Rounds does the talking in the ad. I hope I can be forgiven for wondering exactly how much those TV ads really have to do with the well-established business.

Then Rounds turned up at the dedication to the underground science lab at the former Homestake gold mine in Lead.

While Rounds had a great deal to do with keeping the lab project drawing breath while it was on life support early in his administration, one wonders why he did not demure to current Gov. Dennis Daugaard when it came to TV interviews.

At the same time, the once and perhaps future congresswoman announced on Facebook that she will be going to work for Sioux Falls-based Raven Industries in September.

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"I am also excited that this position will allow Max and me to raise Zachary full time in South Dakota, which means more time on the farm with Grandpa!" Herseth Sandlin wrote of her 3-year-old son. "Zachary is particularly excited about the built-in bunk beds in the new home we're buying in Sioux Falls!"

This subtly signals that the move to South Dakota will be a real one and not a situation in which Herseth Sandlin continues to spend significant time inside the Beltway.

The Senate seat in question is currently held by three-term incumbent Democrat Tim Johnson, and the 65-year-old could very well run for a fourth term. Retirement also seems a very real possibility, as does a run by his politically gifted son, Brendan, who now works as South Dakota's U.S. attorney out of Sioux Falls.

With a U.S. Senate seat on the line in 2014, every move and detail of the players will be dissected ad nauseum. So let's get started.

Sen. Johnson is perched in the chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee and wields a mountain of power on Capitol Hill. And he might not be ready to give that up. Or he might view it as a substantial capstone achievement, a dignified exit from a storied career.

The questions about 2014 are multiple and interconnected.

* Will Sen. Johnson retire or run?

* If he retires, will Herseth Sandlin jump in? Will Brendan Johnson?

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* If the answer is yes to both, where do South Dakota and Beltway Democrats line up? (Or, where do they hide?)

* Assuming Mike Rounds gets in the race (which I do), will he face Tim Johnson, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin or Brendan Johnson in November 2014? And whom would he prefer? Each of them would give the popular former governor a real race.

* With a U.S. Senate seat in play in an evenly divided chamber, how much outside money will flood our small state?

Given the likelihood of a clash of the titans and the stakes of 2014, House challenger Matt Varilek, a Democrat, and one-term incumbent Republican Kristi Noem might have to battle as much for attention and funds as they do for votes in the coming

Related Topics: MIKE ROUNDS
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