There is wide speculation that SD Dem Sen. Tim Johnson will retire at the end of his term, rather than seek reelection next year. He continues to suffer physical ailments from a brain hemorrhage he suffered in 2006. His campaign fundraising only netted $14,000 in the fourth quarter, an anemic amount for a Senator preparing for reelection. Prominent local Democrats have recently floated the name of his son, Brendan Johnson, as a replacement. He wouldn’t be the first politician to try to pass a seat to a family member.
“Brendan is one who walks into the room and works it well,” Steve Dick, veteran aide to former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle, told the Associated Press. “He’s positioning himself. That’s what people are talking about.”
Brendan, 37, has been U.S. Attorney for South Dakota since 2009. When his appointment to the position seemed stalled during confirmation, Sen. Johnson intervened on his son’s behalf. This is not unprecedented, although he had initially vowed to not get involved in his nomination. It suggests that the Senator may again try to lift his son’s political fortunes.
It is almost certain that Sen. Johnson will retire. In recent weeks, both his scheduler and press secretary have left to take new jobs. Hiring new senior staff is not an enviable place to begin a reelection campaign. He has brushed off questions about his intentions from local press. “I feel great. That’s not a problem. I’ll decide this spring. Maybe March and get it over with,” Johnson said. “Get it over with,” isn’t exactly a stirring theme for a campaign announcement.
Democrats will face an uphill climb retaining Johnson’s seat. Former GOP Gov. Mike Rounds has already announced his campaign. Democrats may believe Johnson’s son is the best chance they have to secure the seat, but voters often look down on candidates who feel they should inherit political office.
Political office ought to be decided by voters, not a family tree.