Tim Johnson, a pro-abortion Democrat from South Dakota, will announce tomorrow he is retiring from the Senate. Johnson’s retirement makes it more easy for Republicans to potentially retake the Senate in 2014.
Johnson had an extensive pro-abortion voting record — supporting the pro-abortion position on 50 of 60 votes as scored by the National Right to Life Committee.
Roll Call has more details on his retirement:
Johnson will hold a news conference “regarding the 2014 election” at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion — his 1969 alma mater — at 4 p.m. ET, according to a Monday press release from his Senate office. Republicans are already targeting the Senate seat and have a top candidate in place: Former Gov. Mike Rounds announced his campaign last year. An open seat only makes the race more alluring for Senate Republicans, who need to pick up six seats to win the majority in 2014.
Democrats have a couple of potential candidates considering the race, including former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and Johnson’s son, U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson. Sandlin has several statewide victories under her belt, while Johnson wields a well-known name in South Dakota politics. Also, a Republican primary could hurt the GOP’s chances of picking up the seat. Rep. Kristi Noem — who defeated Herseth Sandlin in 2010 — continues to consider a bid. Conservative activists in the state hope Noem will challenge the former two-term governor, but if she passes, they would likely recruit someone else.
Rounds is strongly pro-life and signed pro-life legislation while serving as the state’s governor. Sandlin is strongly pro-abortion and would be a setback for pro-lifers.
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The Washington Post suggests Johnson’s retirement helps Republicans.
Make no mistake: South Dakota was going to be a steep climb for Democrats before Johnson announced his retirement, and it remains a tough proposition. This is a state that Mitt Romney won by 18 points in 2012. And aside from Johnson, two Republicans represent the state at the federal level. The Great Plains states, and specifically the Dakotas, have been trending more and more Republican in recent years. But as 2012 showed, Democrats can still win statewide there. Now-Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) won last year even as Romney carried her state by 20 points. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) won reelection even as Romney won his state by double-digits.
They both ran hyper-local campaigns and positioned themselves as centrists, something whomever Democrats nominate in Johnson’s place will be expected to do as well.