- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 14, 2014

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota U.S. Senate candidates are bringing in top guns to campaign on their behalf as the race draws increasing national attention.

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin from Iowa was scheduled to participate in an event in support of Democratic candidate Rick Weiland Tuesday in Sioux Falls, while former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will be stumping for Republican candidate Mike Rounds on Friday.

The race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Tim Johnson has grown more competitive in recent weeks. Republicans had banked on winning conservative South Dakota, and a recent move by national Democrats to pour in $1 million into Weiland’s campaign was quickly countered with $1 million worth of TV ad buys for Rounds paid by the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

“Tom Harkin has been a champion of seniors and working-class Americans for four decades,” Weiland said. “His style of prairie populism is what Take it Back (Weiland’s campaign slogan) is all about. We need to keep our promises to seniors and ensure that we continue to create opportunities for everyday citizens to be successful.”

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, who along with Huckabee was a presidential hopeful, endorsed Rounds ahead of a Tuesday visit to Rapid City as the keynote speaker of an event hosted by the conservative Family Heritage Alliance.

“The voters here in South Dakota know me and they know where I stand,” Rounds said. “I think they also know and trust national leaders like Sen. Rick Santorum and Gov. Mike Huckabee. When leaders like these come forward to be part our team, I think it’s a sign of strength that others share in our belief that America needs to get back on track and headed in the right direction.”

Rounds and Huckabee have a long history. They served together as governors, and Rounds was national chairman of Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Republicans need to pick up six seats this election to regain control of the U.S. Senate.

Independents Larry Pressler, who spent 18 years in the Senate as a Republican, and Gordon Howie are the two other candidates in the race.

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