Tim Johnson is the seventh US senator to bow out of a reelection bid in 2014, giving Republicans their best shot to pick up a seat. But conservatives are eager not to elect a GOP moderate.
Sen. Tim Johnson (D) of South Dakota announced that he would not seek a fourth term on Tuesday, leaving a political opening for Republicans hoping to take back the Senate and creating a key vacancy at the top of the powerful Senate Banking Committee he chairs.
“I’m 68 years old this next session and as much as [his wife] Barbara would like for me to run again, I have to say no,” Senator Johnson said in a press conference at his alma mater, the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, that was punctuated with frequent laughter. “I’ve run for election 36 years in a row and it’s now time to give it up. It will be strange, but I’m certain that I can get over it.”
Johnson cruised to victory in his 2008 reelection campaign with more than 60 percent of the vote, even after suffering a stroke in 2006. He returned to the Senate the following year to adulation from his colleagues and well-wishes from President George W. Bush in his State of the Union address.
Johnson’s departure leaves much unsettled about the 2014 Senate contest in South Dakota for both political parties.
Johnson was coy about the Democrat who would succeed him as the party’s choice for the seat. His son, Brendan, the US attorney in the Mount Rushmore State, is poised to run but lacks political bona fides beyond his bloodline. Former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D) could also get into the mix.