Rep. Noem in 'conversations' about potential Senate bid in South Dakota

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) is discussing the possibility of mounting a Senate campaign in 2014, telling The Hill she's had "some conversations" with groups about running for the seat being vacated by Sen. Tim Johnson (D).

Noem said she doesn't expect to make a decision for "several months" on whether she'd challenge former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds in the Republican primary. 

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"We're still watching the race. We haven't made up our minds on what we're going to do at all, and probably won't for several months yet, so we'll still take into consideration a lot of that," she told The Hill.

"We've had some conversations with organizations [about a Senate run]," Noem added. The Republican lawmaker declined to specify which groups she'd been talking to about a campaign. 

Rounds is currently the only announced Republican in the race to replace Johnson, but some GOP activists have been pressing Noem to get in the race. 

Rounds has come under fire from conservative groups, who say his record as governor proves he's too liberal to represent their interests in the state.

But one prominent conservative group, the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF), indicated shortly after Johnson announced his retirement plans that it was not entirely sold on a Noem candidacy.

"At this point, we don't know if she's someone we can support, but we certainly don't object to her running," SCF Executive Director Matt Hoskins told The Hill in March.

Noem has Tea Party support, a more conservative record than Rounds and strong fundraising abilities that could make her a significant opponent. 

Rick Weiland, a two-time House candidate, is currently the only announced Democrat in the race. 

It had been widely expected that former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D) would also seek the Democratic nomination, but she announced earlier this week she would not run for Senate. 

A Noem aide told The Hill that the prospect of a Democratic primary had "piqued" the congresswoman's interest in the race, as it "could potentially make our path to a run for Senate easier," by weakening the eventual Democratic nominee.

Noem, when asked whether Herseth Sandlin's decision would inform her eventual decision, said that a Democratic primary would have made it "an interesting race, certainly."

But Noem said it's possible other candidates could still enter the fray.

"[There are] definitely a lot of people still looking at the race, Republicans and Democrats, so I think it's going to take a while for this race to shape up yet," she said.