Through November 3rd, Smart Politics will be running a series of electoral projections for Upper Midwestern federal and state governmental contests. The eighth projections in the series are State Senate races in the State of South Dakota.

South Dakota: State Senate.
Balance of power: Republicans (20 to 15)
2006 Results: Democrats +5
Seats up for reelection in 2008: 35
Open seats: Republicans = 9; Democrats = 2
Incumbents on the ballot: Republicans = 11; Democrats = 13
Districts without major party opposition: Republicans = 0; Democrats = 1

Outlook: For the first time since 1992, Democrats have a chance at winning back the State’s upper legislative chamber. First of all, due to term limits and retirements, Democrats will actually have more incumbents on the ballot (13) than will the Republicans (11). Republicans will therefore be defending more than four times as many open seats (9) than Democrats (2). Neither of the open seats on the Democratic side was competitive in 2006 (decided by 10 points or less), while two open seats for the GOP (Districts 25 and 35) were very competitive during the last election cycle (decided by 5 points or less). Thirdly, the Democratic Party has fielded candidates in all 35 districts, compared to just 29 districts in 2006. The Democrat’s best shot at picking up Senate seats include Districts 9, 22, 25, 33, and 35. Republicans are looking to pick up seats of their own, including Districts 3, 5, 8, 12, and 32. Democrats will be assisted with Senator Tim Johnson and At-large Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin on the ballot, as well as a presidential candidate who should easily outperform John Kerry and Al Gore from four and eight years ago respectively.

Projection: Democrats +1. Republicans retain control of Senate.