Herseth for governor.

It has a ring to it, don't you think?

Well get ready. That bell could be rung again in 2014, with an addition: Sandlin.

Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin could well be a candidate for South Dakota governor next year. She could well be a candidate for the U.S. Senate, too.

That Senate possibility depends on whether three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson decides to pursue a fourth term, and whether U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson picks up the Senate campaign reins if his dad lets them go.

An announcement is coming soon. If Tim Johnson doesn't run, he'll retire with a political record unblemished by defeat: 4-0 in the state Legislature, 5-0 in the U.S. House, 3-0 in the U.S. Senate.

There were big wins in there, too, including unseating three-term Republican Sen. Larry Pressler in 1996 and beating three-term Republican Rep. John Thune in 2002.

Brendan Johnson is a likely congressional candidate for 2014. If his dad retires, his goal almost certainly would be the Senate. But would he face Herseth Sandlin, an experienced, formidable foe, in the Democratic primary?

That's a big issue. Democrats need unity in facing the most likely Republican nominee, former Gov. Mike Rounds. And Republican U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, who defeated Herseth Sandlin in 2010, hasn't ruled out running for the Senate.

Democrats worry about an expensive, hostile Democratic primary between Brendan Johnson and Herseth Sandlin. Some say it would make more sense for Herseth Sandlin to challenge first-term Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard next year.

That's an intriguing possibility. It makes some sense. Herseth Sandlin pondered a gubernatorial run in 2010. Looking back now, she might wish she had run. She is still an appealing candidate, however. And her history of moderation in Congress would play better in a general-election run against Daugaard than in a Democratic primary against Brendan Johnson, where liberals hold more sway.

It's nearly impossible for a Democrat to beat an incumbent Republican governor in South Dakota. Dick Kneip proved it can be done in 1970. Herseth Sandlin doesn't have Kneip's retail political skills. But she is exceptionally bright and brings crucial experience and fund-raising capability to a race. She also has that name.

"Herseth for governor" goes back to political bumper stickers of the 1950s. Her grandfather, Ralph, won the governor's chair in 1958. And her dad, Lars, showed well against George Mickelson in the 1986 governor's race.

Stephanie Herseth complicated her bumper-sticker impact in 2007 by marrying former Texas Congressman Max Sandlin. But what was lost in logo was more than gained in the birth of a son, Zachary, now 4.

Zachary would be a campaign bonus in governor's run. So would Herseth Sandlin's father, Lars, who understands that particular race like few others in South Dakota.

"Herseth Sandlin for governor" doesn't ring quite like "Herseth for governor." But it still rings.

You have to believe Dennis Daugaard can hear it already.

Contact Kevin Woster at 394-8413 or kevin.woster@rapidcityjournal.com. The opinions expressed by this columnist are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Rapid City Journal.

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