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Potential Thune Challenger Bows Out

Thune is up for re-election in 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The son of a former senator who was considered one of Democrats' best chances to challenge Sen. John Thune told CQ Roll Call he has no plans to run for political office in 2016.  

"It’s certainly something that I would consider in the future," former U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson said. "But it’s not anything that I have any sort of plan or interest in doing at the moment."  

When Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., retired in 2014, Democrats talked up the younger Johnson as a possible candidate to run to replace his father. As U.S. Attorney, he could not engage in any kind of political activity, so his February announcement that he would resign that post stoked speculation  he might be gearing up to challenge Thune or Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., the state's lone House member. At the time, Johnson declined to discuss his future plans.  

“One of the things that I’m not going to do while I’m U.S. Attorney, and I’ve never done, is to discuss politics," he told CQ Roll Call.  

But Johnson is now officially in the private sector. On Monday, Robins Kaplan LLP announced he has joined the firm and will open a new office in Sioux Falls, S.D.  

"My focus is exclusively right now on building a national law practice," Johnson told CQ Roll Call. As for a political campaign, "I haven’t given it any thought, nor do I have any sort of political plan."  

As CQ Roll Call reported , Thune is staffing up and treating his re-election bid as if it is competitive. He started the year with $9.7 million , and will finish the first quarter with $10.3 million, according to a source familiar with his fundraising.  

Democrats have a thin bench in Republican-leaning South Dakota. There was Johnson and former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, now the general counsel and vice president of corporate development for Raven Industries.  

The race is rated Safe Republican by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.  

Related: Brendan Johnson Discusses His Future in South Dakota Thune Hires Campaign Manager Senators Confirm Re-Election Bids for 2016 Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report 2016 Race Ratings The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.