So I'm driving home yesterday from building boxes for the middle school play, fretting over whom we Dems should nominate from our seemingly thin bench for the various statewide offices up for grabs in 2014. Stephanie, Brendan. Brendan, Stephanie....
And then it hits me: Varilek for Senate!
Matt Varilek ran a respectable campaign against Kristi Noem in 2012. He has the freshest tested statewide campaign network of any Dem in South Dakota. I welcome counter-commentary, but I will contend that the only major error he committed was his alienation of key base donors with his comments against gay marriage. Other than that, Team Varilek campaigned well. Now they need to reassemble and campaign harder, just as Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and John Thune did in 2004 after their losses.
As for the job, Varilek can make a legitimate case to have more experience in the Senate than anyone thus far discussed as a possible pretender to that seat. He's logged seven years as Senator Tim Johnson's economic development director, a job that has put him in contact with leaders around the state talking practical policy to help them solve problems. Varilek has dealt with more Washington-level problems and knows the ins-and-outs of getting things done in the Senate better than the only declared candidate, Republican nepotizer and crony extraordinaire M. Michael Rounds, and anyone else who might emerge from the GOP to run for Johnson's seat.
Does Varilek want the job? That's an open question. He ran a tough campaign in 2012. He deserves some time to just do his job and hang with the ladies at home. Contrary to the artificial blogstorming hysteria over at Dakota War College, there's no rush for a contender to throw in for the 2014 race. As you may recall, John Thune didn't enter the 2004 race until January of that year.
But Dems, remember: experience matters. Varilek has Senate experience and campaign experience. If you want a winning 2014 ticket, you've got to keep Varilek in your calculations.