Former South Dakota U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin said Monday she will not seek the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Tim Johnson, removing herself from a contest expected to play a key role in determining which party controls the Senate after next year’s election.
Herseth Sandlin, 42, announced her decision on her Facebook page Monday morning and confirmed it to The Associated Press. The Democrat said she decided not to seek her party’s nomination for the U.S. Senate because she wants to focus on her family and her job as an attorney and vice president for Raven Industries, a Sioux Falls-based company that makes an array of specialty products for the agricultural, aviation and construction industries.
‘‘I’ve decided not to run for office in 2014,’’ Herseth Sandlin told The Associated Press before boarding a plane early Monday morning.
On her Facebook page, Herseth Sandlin noted that many Democrats had urged her to run for the seat now held by Johnson, a fellow Democrat who announced earlier he will not seek a fourth term next year. She and her husband, Max, and their son, Zachary, live in Sioux Falls, and Herseth Sandlin said her son will be starting kindergarten next year just before the general election.
‘‘The primary reasons for my decision not to run are quality of life considerations for my family and the high reward and satisfaction I’m experiencing at Raven Industries,’’ Herseth Sandlin said later from Minneapolis, where she was between flights.
Herseth Sandlin also said she saw a television interview early Monday in which former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine expressed dissatisfaction with the gridlock in Washington.
‘‘I agree with her concern that the tenor of today’s politics is inhibiting elected leaders in Washington from focusing on what matters most and finding common ground to move the country forward,’’ Herseth Sandlin said.
Herseth Sandlin lost her first run for Congress in 2002 but won a special election in June 2004. She was later re-elected to three full terms in the U.S. House before losing a re-election bid in 2010 to Republican Kristi Noem.
Speculation among Democrats in recent months has centered on whether Herseth Sandlin or Johnson’s son, Brendan Johnson, would run for the seat. Brendan Johnson has also been encouraged to run for the Senate seat, but he has refused to comment on any political plans, saying he remains focused on his job as U.S. attorney for South Dakota.
Johnson repeated Monday he doesn’t believe it’s appropriate for a U.S. attorney to make any kind of political statement.
‘‘My only focus is on being U.S. attorney. That’s where my attention is, on the job at hand,’’ Johnson said.
Asked if he might leave the U.S. attorney’s job and make an announcement later, Johnson said: ‘‘I’m not going to go there either.’’
When Weiland announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination last week, he said he decided to run because he’s convinced that Brendan Johnson will not enter the race. Weiland ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1996.
South Dakota Democratic Party Chairman Ben Nesselhuf said Weiland would make a great nominee but that other Democrats might emerge to join Weiland in a primary because Rounds could be vulnerable in the general election.
‘‘I think we’re going to hold the seat. I’m still feeling pretty bullish on that,’’ Nesselhuf said.
Rounds said he’s prepared to take on any candidates who enter the race and his campaign will emphasize his record during his eight years as governor.
‘‘I think most South Dakotans believe in results, and that’s the focus we’ll have,’’ Rounds said.
Weiland issued a statement saying he respects Herseth Sandlin’s decision to focus on her family and job.
‘‘We should also hope, and be sure to tell Stephanie, that we would very much appreciate having the benefits of her public service again in the future,’’ Weiland said.
Herseth Sandlin said she cannot predict whether she will run for office in the future.
‘‘I’m sure that I’ll want to, but the set of variables is pretty complex right now. So it’s hard to say whether or not I will,’’ she said.