2014 Senate: South Dakota Democrat to Retire

Posted: Mar 25, 2013 4:15 PM

Not unexpected, but significant:

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson, a South Dakota Democrat, does not plan to run for re-election when his current term ends in 2014, sources close to the matter and key Capitol Hill staffers said on Monday. Johnson, 66, joined the Senate in 1997 and has been widely expected to retire at the end of his term. He plans to make the announcement on Tuesday, the sources said. Johnson's staff said that he will hold a press conference at the University of South Dakota on Tuesday. His retirement would leave a vacant seat in a conservative-leaning state that could be difficult for Democrats to defend as they try to protect their majority in the Senate. Political analysts expect Johnson's son, Brendan Johnson, who is South Dakota's U.S. attorney, to emerge as a potential Democratic candidate in the 2014 election. The younger Johnson has not announced any formal plans to seek the Senate seat.  

South Dakota is a reliably red state, which Mitt Romney won running away last year.  Republicans will likely be favored to pick up this seat, though nothing is a sure bet.  (The GOP was expected to walk away with an open seat in North Dakota in 2012, but Democrats managed to hold it with a "moderate" candidate -- despite Obama losing the state's presidential contest by 20 points).  If Republicans hope to even sniff a Senate majority in 2014, they'll need to nail down this contest.  Democrats currently hold a 55-45 advantage in the chamber; Republicans need to net six seats to marshal a working majority.  Of the 35 Senate races on the 2014 docket, 21 will be waged over seats controlled by Democrats.  Of the six open races, Democrats are playing defense in four.  Prognosticators don't anticipate Republicans losing any of the seats they currently hold, complicating the DSCC's task.  Politico's James Hohmann has a useful overview of the GOP's map to 51 seats here.