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Weiland To Seek Democratic Bid For U.S. Senate



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Rick Weiland, a prominent South Dakota Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1996, said Wednesday he plans to seek his party's nomination to run for the U.S. Senate next year.

 

Weiland, an ex-staffer for former Sen. Tom Daschle, said he will run for the Senate seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, who recently announced he would not seek re-election.

 

The 54-year-old Sioux Falls resident said he is running because congressional Republicans are trying to cut education programs and have proposed changes he believes would harm Social Security and Medicare.

 

"I feel strongly that a majority of South Dakotans feel the same way I do," Weiland said. "It's not a state of billionaires and big corporations. We're ordinary people that work hard and try to get ahead and I think are feeling that government isn't working for us anymore. We need to put it back to work for the American people."

 

Weiland is the first Democrat to enter the race.

 

Former Gov. Mike Rounds is the only Republican who has announced a run for the Senate seat. Speculation among Democrats in recent months has centered on whether Johnson's son, U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, or former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin will run for the Senate seat. Herseth Sandlin has said she will make a decision by the end of May.

 

Weiland said he decided to run after speaking recently to Brendan Johnson.

 

"He told me he is focused on being our U.S. attorney. I wouldn't have jumped in if I thought he was going to run," Weiland said.


Ryan Casey, of Sioux Falls, the Lincoln County Democratic Party chairman who has led an effort to draft Johnson into the race, issued a statement Wednesday praising Weiland's decision to run and urging Democrats to support Weiland.

 

Casey said he spoke recently to Johnson and is "certain Brendan will not enter the race for the U.S. Senate."

 

Weiland said he wants to fight for working families and against special interests.

 

"I just feel I'm interested in fighting the fight on behalf of the state. We'll see what happens," he said.


South Dakota Democratic Party Chairman Ben Nesselhuf said Weiland's decision to run is a reflection of Democrats' determination.

 

"I think it's indicative as to how excited Democrats are that we're going to keep this seat," Nesselhuf said.

 

Weiland ran for South Dakota's lone seat in the U.S. House in 1996, when then-Rep. Tim Johnson ran and won a Senate race. Republican John Thune, who now is in the Senate, defeated Weiland in that House race by a wide margin.

 

Weiland then was appointed regional director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Denver.

 

He ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for U.S. House in 2002.

 

He joined the International Code Council, a nonprofit organization that develops construction codes for commercial and residential buildings, in 2003, serving as chief operating officer and then chief executive officer before leaving in September.

 

He said he recently has helped run the family restaurant in Sioux Falls.

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