Ex-governor coasts to Senate primary win

Courtesy of Mike Rounds

Former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds easily won the Republican nod for Senate on Tuesday night, setting the GOP up for a likely pickup in November.

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Rounds took 58 percent of the vote when the Associated Press called the race, with none of his four primary opponents topping 20 percent support.

He’ll face former FEMA adviser Rick Weiland in the general, a political newcomer and the only Democrat to run after two top-tier party recruits opted out of the race. Though Weiland is Democrats' only option, he's had a lukewarm reception from national Democrats and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) unsuccessfully tried to recruit another option into the race.

Weiland’s candidacy, coupled with the increasingly red lean of the state, have Republicans enthusiastic about their chances of flipping the seat of retiring Sen. Tim Johnson (D). 

Picking up the seat is a key part of the GOP's calculus in getting to six seats they need to take control of the Senate this fall.

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And despite conservative opposition to Rounds’ candidacy, a credible challenger never materialized. None of his three Republican opponents picked up much traction in the primary and Rounds was able to use his warchest largely for positive ads.

It appears, however, his primary fight may not end after Tuesday night. Physician Annette Bosworth, who took just 7 percent when the AP called the primary, announced Tuesday she’s launching a political action committee to “help elect a new generation of leaders.” 

In a video announcing the launch of the group, Bosworth said she was inspired to form the group by the “corruption” and “lazy, biased media” she encountered during her run. 

It’s unclear how or where Bosworth plans to engage with the PAC. But the website she launched along with it hints that she could continue to be a thorn in Rounds’ side, as it includes an attack ad she launched during the race for commuting the sentence of a man convicted of killing his pregnant girlfriend.

And the three independent candidates also running — two well-known in the state — are another wildcard for Rounds in the general.

Former Sen. Larry Pressler (R) and former gubernatorial candidate Gordon Howie, both in the race as independents, could act as spoilers if they draw a considerable portion of the vote away from Rounds. 

Howie has positioned himself as a conservative alternative to the former governor, while Pressler could appeal to both Republicans and Democrats in the race.