There is very little activity over in the Northern Plain States and because of how few Congressional members I figured I should lope both of them together.
Despite both States having not voted for a Democrat nationally since 1964, both states have a tendency to choose Democrats to represent them in Congress. So we’ll have a brief ( relatively) history of federal office holders for both states starting with North Dakota.
Since the Census of 1970 North Dakota has only had one U.S. Representative who represents the whole state. The first one was Republican Mark Andrews who opted to run for U.S. Senate in 1980 and won against token opposition. He was succeeded by Democrat Byron Dorgan. The other member of the U.S. Senate was Quentin Burdick, a Democrat. In 1986, the 6th year of the Reagan Presidency, Mark Andrews was beaten by Democrat Kent Conrad 49.8% to 49.1%
In 1992, Kent Conrad declined to run for reelection due to his campaign promise to eliminate the Deficit ( which he failed to uphold). However Democrat Quentin Burdick died in the September of that year and his widow Jocelyn Burdick was appointed to fill the seat until a Special Election could be held. Kent Conrad ran for that seat and claimed it didn’t violate his promise ( Democrats are sneaky like that). Dorgan beat Republican Ed Schafer in 1990 ( Schafer would go on to serve two terms as Governor of ND as well as being President George W. Bush’s final Secretary of Agriculture). In 1992 Dorgan ran for Conrad’s Senate seat and was succeeded in the House by Democrat Earl Pomeroy. Both Pomeroy and Conrad developed reputations of being “moderate” Pomeroy even joining the Blue Dog Caucus. However Dorgan developed the reputation of being a liberal hero. I’d classify him as being old school New Deal Liberal rather then today’s modern progressive idiocy.
All three were deemed invincible and the GOP had a weak bench in North Dakota at this time. However the Bush administration had some hope that Former Governor Ed Schafer could be convinced to challenge Dorgan in 2004, but Schafer declined. Democrat Prominence in North Dakota was destroyed by the Tea Party wave of 2010. Republicans successfully recruited 3 term and popular Governor John Hoeven and rather then facing him Dorgan instead retired. Pomeroy’s career was effectively destroyed by Obamacare with State Representative Rick Berg beating him 54% to 44%. In 2012 Kent Conrad decided to retire and Rick Berg opted to run for that election instead. The Democrats recruited the only person they had left who could run a competitive race. Former State Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp who had lost the Governor’s race of 2000 to John Hoeven in part because of suddenly developing breast cancer late in the election.
Heitkamp was underestimated by many and ran a folksy down to earth campaign that had very few mistakes. Berg had several mistakes and threw what should’ve been an easy election to the Democrats both on election day losing 50% to 49% and then later failing to take advantage of ND’s Recount laws.
Berg was succeeded by Republican Kevin Cramer who is also running for reelection in 2014. As Heidi Heitkamp is already in the Senate and because Democrats have virtually nobody else of any name recognition able to run a competitive campaign it is likely that Cramer will win by a large margin ( he won 54% of the vote in 2012) possibly uncontested. There will be little change in ND, however Republicans shouldn’t become complacent the same way they did in the 1980s.
In South Dakota we have a far more active election year and a far more historically successful Republican Party. In 1980 The South Dakota was represented by Two Democrats and Two Republicans, one from each party in both chambers. Republican Senator Larry Pressler had been elected in 1978. Republican Congressman James Abdnor opted to challenge Democratic Senator George McGovern of liberal fame. The race was successfully nationalized and Abdnor beat McGovern with 58% of the vote to McGovern’s 39% one of the worst showings of an incumbent Senator ever. Abdnor was succeeded in the House by Republican Clint Roberts however because of the Census of 1980 SD was limited to only one Congressional Seat and Roberts was beaten by his fellow Congressman, Democrat Tom Daschle. Daschle would win succeeding elections before opting to run for Senate in 1986 where Abdnor like his neighbor up North would lose because of the ” Six Year Itch” of the Reagan Presidency. Daschle was succeeded in the House by Democrat Tim Johnson. Johnson survived the Republican Revolution of 1994 and would choose to run for Senate in 1996 against Republican Larry Pressler who he beat. The House race came down between former Abdnor staffer John Thune and Daschle staffer Rick Weiland. Thune won and would win again in 98 and 2000 before opting to challenge Tim Johnson in 2002. Johnson narrowly won in part because of Daschle’s strong support winning 49.6% to Thune’s 49.5%
This came back to hurt Daschle when Thune decided to give him his first competitive election in since 1986 and beat him with strong support from President Bush by 50.6% to Daschle’s 49.4% Johnson won reelection in 08 in part because of the goodwill created by his stroke and the fact that the GOP did not recruit a credible challenger.
Thune was succeeded in the House in 2002 by term limited Governor Bill Janklow who ran over a motorcyclist and was forced to resign due to being convicted of manslaughter. Stephanie Herseth, a daughter of a former Democratic Governor, won the Special Election to succeed him and held this seat in each succeeding election until 2010 when she was beaten, despite having voted against Obamacare, by State Representative Kristi Noem by 48% to 45%.
John Thune was uncontested in 2010 and Noem won reelection with 57% of the vote in 2012.
Tim Johnson decided to retire rather then face the voters in 2014. 2 term Republican Governor Mike Rounds was looking to challenge Johnson or run for the open seat and I would support him if either Johnson or Stephanie Herseth Sandlin ( she married while in Congress) were running. I’d support Noem over him, but she has so far declined. But Democrats have so far failed to recruit a strong candidate for this seat even son of Tim Johnson and U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson ( who progressives wanted to challenge Sandlin should she run) has declined. So far Democrats have united behind former Daschle Staffer and surefire loser Rick Weiland. Round’s conservatism leads much to be desired and in my opinion the Election will likely be decided in the Republican Primary so lets back a good Conservative candidate.
Right now the main candidates are State Representative Stace Nelson who’s actions make him seem like a radical Paulite ( he’s been kicked out of the GOP caucus before) and might be the guy who could lose this Senate seat if voters are foolish enough to pick him. Then there is Physician Annette Bosworth who doesn’t have a voting record to judge and who has past statements that raise concerns about her genuine conservatism.
Then there is State Senate Majority Whip Larry Rhoden who was invited to the Redstate Gathering of this year. He has a record and in particular has strongly supported gun rights. Out of this group I’d support Rhoden. He seems to be a better conservative then Rounds and isn’t a surefire loser in the general like Nelson.
There is of course a new wrinkle as former Republican Senator Larry Pressler ( who supported Obama in 08) has declared his intention to run as an Independent. His name recognition may be high enough to throw a wrench in the GOP’s plans however.