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Take this news however way you want to take it:

Former congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin announced Monday that she will not run for South Dakota’s open Senate seat in 2014, sharply increasing the likelihood that  Democrats will lose a seat their party now holds.

“While I know you share my confidence that working together we could win a statewide race next year, I’m also confident that the decision not to run is the right decision for Max, Zachary, me and our entire family,” Herseth Sandlin wrote on her Facebook page.

Herseth Sandlin is apparently joined on the sidelines by U.S. attorney Brendan Johnson, the son of retiring Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), whose supporters last week indicated he would not run. Johnson has not officially announced his plans, though.

The early thinking had been that both Johnson and Herseth Sandlin might run for the seat, creating a potentially contentious primary.

Instead, former governor Mike Rounds, a Republican, is the big name in the race right now. Rick Weiland (D), a former congressional candidate and congressional aide, jumped into the race last week — a move that was seen as an indicating that the younger Johnson wouldn’t run. - Washington Post, 5/13/13

I have mixed feelings about this news.  No doubt that Herseth Sandlin could've been a great candidate to go up against former Governor Mike Rounds (R. SD) with her cross over appeal but she wasn't exactly the kind of candidate that made the progressive wing of her base excited to support:

And unless another big name Democrat steps forward, I think it's time for Democrats to start uniting behind Rick Weiland (D. SD), and there are some great reasons to get behind Weiland:

“I'm focused on getting out there and talking to the people of our state, having the conversation about their concerns, cares. I really feel that Washington is broken right now,” he said.

Weiland is a Madison, SD-native, and a long-time Daschle staffer who ran unsuccessful Congressional campaigns in 1996 and 2002. He says he only decided weeks ago to run again. Apart from his broken government message, Weiland said senior programs like Medicare and Social Security will be focuses of his campaign.

“The American people like them,” he said. “They've given dignity to people in their retirement years. They've given people access to healthcare at a point in your life where it's hard to get when you get older.”

Weiland was a regional FEMA director, working with national officials in South Dakota following the Spencer Tornado in 1998. He has also worked for the South Dakota AARP and the International Code Council, which he stepped down from that last year. - Keloland, 5/8/13

Not to mention Weiland has the backing of some big name Democrats:
“I encouraged him with great enthusiasm,” Daschle told the Argus Leader on Wednesday night.

Besides having experience working as a staffer and in other capacities, Weiland has become a successful businessman since his work in government, Daschle said. He and his wife own a successful restaurant in Sioux Falls, along with other ventures.

“I think he’s even more well rounded than when he ran before,” Daschle said.
Ben Nesselhuf, the chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party, said the news reflected Democratic confidence.

“I think that this is a strong indicator of how bullish Democrats are that we are going to keep this seat,” Nesselhuf said. “Mike Rounds is a very flawed candidate and there are several Democrats who would relish taking him on.”

In a statement, Rounds said he is “prepared to take on all comers” and is focused on “engaging South Dakota voters and gaining their support.”

Weiland forecast a populist campaign, saying he wanted to fight for working families and against special interests he said “snuck into Washington and stole our government away from us.”

“I really believe that a majority of people in South Dakota, Democrats and Republicans, feel the same way I do,” he said. “We’re not a state of big corporations and billionaires. We’re a state of hard-working, ordinary middle-class families.” - Argus Leader, 5/8/13

Plus it sounds like the DSCC is ready to move on and take on Rounds:

The state's former GOP governor, Mike Rounds, has already declared he will seek the Republican Party's nomination. While Rounds announced his campaign early and has high name-identification in the state, he got off to a slow fundraising start.

Rick Weiland, a former aide to Sen. Tom Daschle, is the only declared candidate in the race for the Democrats. Johnson's son, U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, is also said to be considering a race, although Weiland told reporters last week he did not expect Brendan Johnson to enter the race.

"There will be a strong Democratic candidate that can seize on the divisive GOP primary and provide South Dakotans with a clear alternative to the dysfunction on the Republican side," said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Matt Canter.

"Mike Rounds is like the second coming of Tommy Thompson. He has a glass jaw and his big spending record and work in the private sector has never faced even one drop of scrutiny. National Republicans simply cannot win the majority if they are only fighting it out in red states and to date they have failed to expand the map in any way." - National Journal, 5/13/13

I'll let local and national election analysts chime in on this race:

But the former governor has been running for six months without an opponent. With Democrats facing a possible primary, his position is strong.

“He’s going to continue to do his thing — fundraise, build up a war chest and try to deter any high-caliber opponent,” said Emily Wanless, a political science professor at Augustana College.

Wanless said at this point, the race could be Rounds’ to lose.

The highest caliber potential GOP opponent for Rounds is Rep. Kristi Noem. Noem, a second-term congresswoman who beat Herseth Sandlin in 2010, has refused to rule out a Senate run.

D.C. observers including Larry Sabato aren’t expecting Noem to enter the race. She has said she’ll revisit the question this summer.

“If Noem challenges Rounds and it’s a nasty primary, that could elevate Herseth Sandlin,” Sabato said. “Maybe she’s waiting to see what Noem will do. They’re all saying ‘You first,’ ‘No, you first.’ ”

Weiland might not be considered a “heavyweight,” but observers aren’t writing his chances off.

Wanless said Weiland’s name recognition from past campaigns, his support from prominent Democrats such as Daschle and his backing from liberal Democratic activists upset with Herseth Sandlin could make him formidable.

In 1996 and 2002, Weiland ran for Congress — and lost both times. That has some critics skeptical of his chances on his third try, but Sabato said that could be premature.

“He had two opportunities and it just didn’t work,” Sabato said. “That’s not to say it never will. There are examples in politics of people who ran three, four, five times and then won — but the odds are always against someone coming back from multiple defeats.”

If Weiland became South Dakota’s next senator, Sabato said, “it would be considered a major upset, but not a massive upset.”

But any Democrat winning could be an upset, given the conservative nature of South Dakota and the unpopularity here of President Obama.

“While it’s shocking that Brendan, it sounds like, is not going to run, that doesn’t change the fact that the state is heavily Republican and Democrats face an uphill battle,” Wanless said. - Argus Leader, 5/13/13

Plus Weiland isn't afraid to run as a real Democrat in South Dakota:

Pat Powers's job is to retool all the artillery he had diligently lined up against a Brendan Johnson or Stephanie Herseth Sandlin Senate run to now rain fire on Rick Weiland. The GOP spin machine thus flogs some meme of Weiland being "less interesting" and then offers the delusional suggestion that the presence of adjectives in a Weiland press release alludes to a meme that does not exist outside the echo chamber of Pat's mind.

Is that the best you can do, Pat? Here, let me put my brain in the wayback machine, turn back into the bloviating conservative of my youth, and do your job for you. Rick Weiland has hired Democracy Partners, a proudly progressive outfit that has campaigned for the AFL-CIO, the Brady Campaign, Carol Moseley Braun, Emily's List, the Democratic Party of Slovakia (!), the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, Richard M. Daley, and other purveyors of loathsome liberaldom. They're regular Marxist revolutionaries!

And for the perfect cherry on top of Powers's personality-based, issue-free politics, one of Democracy Partner's campaign boot camp leaders is attorney, author, and activist Christine Pelosi.

Weiland's consulting firm pick and Christine Pelosi's employment therein deserve as little press as the Agenda 21 shouting that will ensue over Weiland's good work on green building codes (and for the record, I mentioned that before Pat). But if we have to take any signals from this fun little connection, we add Democracy Partners' employment to the endorsements and other evidence that Weiland will incline toward the Demcoratic wing of the Democratic Party. - Madville Times, 5/11/13

I for one am not ready to write off this race.  With Weiland, we are getting a real Democrat and this race, regardless of who the nominee on either side, was going to be a real fight.  Weiland was going to hit Herseth Sandlin hard from the left, especially after voting against the Affordable Health Care Act.  With Weiland, we have a shot to actually make the case for the Affordable Health Care Act.  Plus neither Karl Rove or the Tea Party are sold on Rounds just yet so both Rounds and Weiland now have the chance to get their bases united behind them.  I for one am proud to support Rick Weiland for Senate and I am ready to fight for him.  Expect more diaries from me on this race very soon!

Originally posted to pdc on Mon May 13, 2013 at 08:09 AM PDT.

Also republished by South Dakota Kos, In Support of Labor and Unions, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, LGBT Kos Community, Milk Men And Women, and Native American Netroots.

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